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INNOVATION & TECH APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 4 GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN 13 THE TALK OF THE TOWN Jeannie Suk Gersen on state-level anti-abortion moves; the subway and the shooting; the theatre of exile; Ukrainians in Brussels; Wikipedia and zenzizenzizenzic. ANNALS OF INNOVATION Matthew Hutson 20 Potential Energy The rush to develop renewable storage. SHOUTS & MURMURS Simon Rich 26 Mario OUR LOCAL CORRESPONDENTS Kelefa Sanneh 30 Tough Business Fivio Foreign and the fortunes of drill music. A REPORTER AT LARGE Ronan Farrow 36 The Surveillance States Inside the global spyware arms race. ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS Rebecca Mead 48 Norwegian Wood Timber skyscrapers for a greener future. FICTION Elif Batuman 56 “The Repugnant Conclusion” Lauren Michele Jackson THE CRITICS Keith Gessen BOOKS 66 The journals of Alice Walker. 71 Andrey Kurkov’s “Grey Bees.” 73 Briefly Noted POP MUSIC Amanda Petrusich 74 Arcade Fire’s “WE.” THE THEATRE Alexandra Schwartz 76 “Cyrano de Bergerac,” “Birthday Candles.” ON TELEVISION Naomi Fry 78 “Severance.” THE CURRENT CINEMA Anthony Lane 80 “The Duke,” “The Northman.” POEMS Elisa Gonzalez 40 “After My Brother’s Death, I Reflect on the Iliad” Alex Dimitrov 51 “The Years” Christoph Niemann COVER “Virtual Reality” DRAWINGS Farley Katz, William Haefeli, Adam Douglas Thompson, Carolita Johnson, Drew Dernavich, Becky Barnicoat, Elisabeth McNair, Tim Hamilton, Frank Cotham, Suerynn Lee, Adam Sacks, Asher Perlman and Reuven Perlman, Liana Finck, Ellis Rosen, Hartley Lin, Matt Reuter, Justin Sheen SPOTS Matt Blease

CONTRIBUTORS Ronan Farrow (“The Surveillance States,” Rebecca Mead (“Norwegian Wood,” p. 36), a contributing writer at the mag- p. 48) has been a staff writer since 1997. azine, is the author of “Catch and Kill” “Home/Land: A Memoir of Depar- and “War on Peace.” His reporting for ture and Return” is her latest book. The New Yorker won the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for public service. Matthew Hutson (“Potential Energy,” p. 10), a science writer, is the author of Kelefa Sanneh (“Tough Business,” p. 30), “The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking.” a staff writer since 2002, recently pub- lished his first book, “Major Labels: Lauren Michele Jackson (Books, p. 66), A History of Popular Music in Seven a contributing writer at The New Yorker, Genres.” is an assistant professor of English at Northwestern University. Her essay Elif Batuman (Fiction, p. 56) became a collection,“White Negroes,”came out staff writer in 2010. Her new novel, in 2019. “Either/Or,” will come out in May. Christoph Niemann (Cover) most re- Keith Gessen (Books, p. 71) is the author cently published “Zoo,” a collection of of the novel “A Terrible Country.” He linocuts and drawings of animals at teaches at Columbia Journalism School. two Berlin zoos. Elisa Gonzalez (Poem, p. 40), the recip- Annie Hylton (The Talk of the Town, ient of a 2020 Rona Jaffe Foundation p. 18), a freelance investigative journal- Writers’ Award, is at work on her first ist, is an associate professor at Sciences book. Po, in Paris. Naaman Zhou (The Talk of the Town, Alex Dimitrov (Poem, p. 51) is the author p. 19) is a member of the magazine’s of three poetry collections, including editorial staff. “Love and Other Poems.” THIS WEEK ON NEWYORKER.COM ELEMENTS PHOTO BOOTH LEFT: STEPHEN MANGIAT; RIGHT: MATTHEW LEIFHEIT The biologist Jeffrey Marlow on the Matthew Leifheit captures gay life on laser technology that is illuminating New York’s Fire Island in his series the ocean’s most delicate creatures. “To Die Alive.” Download the New Yorker app for the latest news, commentary, criticism, and humor, plus this week’s magazine and all issues back to 1008.

THE MAIL “A MAGNIFICENT NE W OPER A . ” —THE TIMES (OF LONDON) BUFFETT’S MIGRATIONS Russian politics when he notes that “the COMPOSED BY BRETT DEAN human population” in Chukotka “was LIBRET TO BY MAT THEW JOCELYN As an aficionado of Jimmy Buffett tunes, meagre, and struggling with poverty I enjoyed Nick Paumgarten’s report from and alcoholism.” Those conditions were HAMLET the singer’s Latitude Margaritaville re- produced by Boris Yeltsin’s privatiza- tirement communities (“Five O’Clock tion program, which brought about so- ON STAGE MAY 13 –JUNE 9 Everywhere,”March 28th).His vivid de- cial and economic disaster. Everyday scriptions of some of the Parrotheads Russians have come to rely on the pocket Acclaimed composer Brett Dean’s who have flocked to these developments change of Vladimir Putin’s puppets for riveting new masterpiece has its Met elucidate Americans’ growing fascina- material improvements—hence the im- premiere in a powerful staging by tion with unconventional retirement sce- miseration of Russia that we see today. Neil Armfield. Tenor Allan Clayton narios.Yet Paumgarten missed a chance Patty A. Gray stars in his breakthrough portrayal of to point out that Latitude Margarita- Citrus Heights, Calif. Shakespeare’s tormented Dane. ville defies a view of retirement that Buf- 212.362.6000 fett himself once expressed—in, for ex- 1 Tickets start at $25 ample,his 1974 ballad “Migration”:“Most of the people who retire in Florida / Are ART IN A TIME OF WAR © RICHARD HUBERT SMITH / GLYNDEBOURNE PRODUCTIONS LTD wrinkled and they lean on a crutch / And mobile homes are smotherin’ my I’m grateful to Peter Schjeldahl for in- Keys / I hate those bastards so much.” cluding, in his review of a show at the Many of Buffett’s songs and stories con- Clark Art Institute about artists witness- vey environmental themes that no lon- ing war, a sensitive discussion of “The ger ring so true,considering the fact that Disasters of War,” Francisco Goya’s se- a third Latitude Margaritaville complex ries of gruesome intaglio prints (The Art will be carved out of Florida’s vanish- World, March 21st). About the twelfth ing wilderness. I wonder: Do Buffett’s plate, Schjeldahl writes that the primary seemingly changed attitudes toward figure “could be anyone civilized . . . who community and nature reflect a person’s comes upon carnage.” In my mind, this shifting priorities as he ages, or did he image could depict Goya himself—in his abandon the ideas that formed his pub- compassion for the heaped corpses but lic persona in order to take advantage also in his disgust at what he sees, and at of financial opportunities? what he reveals in the other plates.Plenty Trevor Prouty of artists seem to have revelled in war- Goose Creek, S.C. fare, though. I think of the graphic As- syrian bas-relief battle scenes held by the 1 British Museum. They are as fresh and terrifying as they must have been when PUTIN’S POOR they were created,more than twenty-five hundred years ago—showing,for instance, Patrick Radden Keefe’s piece about Lon- soldiers tossing severed enemy heads back don’s Russian oligarchs is a gripping, and forth. Unlike Goya, the sculptors in relevant read (Books, March 28th). In the Assyrian courts employed these im- the opening anecdote, about Roman ages, alongside inscriptions, to trumpet Abramovich’s run, in 2000, for the gov- the power of their monarchs and to in- ernorship of the remote region of Chu- spire fear in their enemies. Given the kotka, Keefe describes “his closest chal- state of the world, it’s worth considering lenger being a local man who herded how artists ought to portray today’s wars. reindeer.” That man was Vladimir Ety- Lee Gaillard lin, a Chukchi activist who has also Eugene, Ore. served in the federal legislature.I worked alongside Etylin when I lived in Chu- • kotka as an anthropologist, and he is featured in my book about the region’s Letters should be sent with the writer’s name, indigenous movement. On the basis of address, and daytime phone number via e-mail to my experiences there,I believe that Keefe [email protected] Letters may be edited could have made a broader point about for length and clarity, and may be published in any medium. We regret that owing to the volume of correspondence we cannot reply to every letter.

APRIL 20 – MAY 3, 2022 GOINGS ON ABOUT TOWN The singer-songwriter Indigo De Souza has rapidly evolved into one of indie rock’s most versatile young voices. After débuting, in 2018, with “I Love My Mom,”an endearing, albeit crude, grunge-pop revelation, her second album, “Any Shape You Take,” from 2021, brought breadth to her songs of unsustainable love, smoothing out her sound and refining her lyrics, even as she extended into new territory sonically and emotionally. On April 24, De Souza brings her bracing, catharsis-driven breakthrough to Music Hall of Williamsburg. PHOTOGRAPH BY SOPHIA WILSON

As ever, it’s advisable to confirm engagements tive, intimately collaborative curators David the COVID pandemic and, by chance, the re- in advance and to check the requirements for Breslin and Adrienne Edwards ignore rather morseless current carnage in Ukraine.—Peter in-person attendance. than oppose pressures of the ever-romping art Schjeldahl (Whitney Museum; through Sept. 5.) market, which can see to itself. Delayed for 1 a year by COVID-19, the show consolidates 1 a trend that many of us hadn’t suspected: a ART sort of fortuitously shared conceptual sensi- DANCE bility that suggests an in-group but is open Morgan Bassichis to all who care about art’s relations to the New York City Ballet wide world. My favorite work in the show This gifted New York performance artist’s is the indelibly disturbing and enthralling The company begins its six-week spring season first solo gallery show is a spare but inviting “Your Eyes Will Be an Empty Word” (2021), (April 19-May 29) with a première from the installation of videos, handwritten to-do lists, by the veteran Cuban American artist and newly hot experimental choreographer Pam and colorful pamphlets offering a series of singularly plainspoken social activist Coco Tanowitz (April 22) and ends with a week of “Questions to Ask Before” such potentially Fusco—a gorgeous twelve-minute video ex- Balanchine’s magical “A Midsummer Night’s nerve-racking situations as “Beginning a ploration of Hart Island, New York’s potter’s Dream” (May 21-29). In the middle is a two- New Friendship” and “Spending Time with field, for unidentified or unclaimed corpses. week festival (May 3-15) devoted to the music a Niece.” Bassichis—whose approach blends Shots of the artist laboring in a rowboat along of Stravinsky. In addition to Tanowitz’s new queer cabaret with an informal style of moti- its shores alternate with drone overviews of a ballet “Law of Mosaics,” which is set to a vational speaking, laced with commiseration really quite lovely place where rows of small score by the California-based composer Ted and self-doubt—has a gentle charisma and a stone markers perfunctorily memorialize in- Hearne, the company has also acquired Ta- preternatural ability to spin any experience numerable lost lives. Beauty stands in for nowitz’s “Gustave le Gray No. 1,” a quartet, into a song. One video finds the artist in the unconsummated mourning. The work can created in 2019, for which two dancers from tub, accompanied by an electronic keyboard, seem to invoke both the cascading fatalities of Dance Theatre of Harlem, Anthony Santos extolling the limitless uses of the bathroom as a creative space. In the video series “Pitchy,” AT THE GALLERIES unrelenting stream of consciousness becomes a new genre of musical theatre. A piano and an empty “stage,” in the form of a carpet, establish a mood of absence—and of antici- pation. On April 22, at 7:30, Bassichis, with their light touch and multilayered humor, goes live, performing their new piece “Ques- tions to Ask Beforehand.” (Reservations, via, are required.)—Johanna Fateman (Donahue; through May 14.) COURTESY THE ARTIST / WELANCORA GALLERY André Cadere Most of New York City’s galleries are clustered in districts. (See the lately ballooning scene in Tribeca.) But some spaces are destinations in Cadere, who was born in Poland, in 1934, and themselves. Two decades ago, in Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neigh- raised in Romania, moved to Paris in the nine- borhood, the insightful Ivy Jones opened Welancora, a Black-owned teen-sixties—and his mischievous presence on gallery anchored by the work of Black artists, long before every big- the conceptual-art scene was similarly inter- box gallery in town began jumping on the diversity bandwagon. In the national. In the decades since the artist died airy parlor floor of a brownstone at 33 Herkimer Street, Welancora of cancer, in 1978, he has become a cult figure, is showing (through May 7) the abstractions of Carl E. Hazlewood, a best known for sneaking his colorful, rodlike Guyanese-born American artist, who is also an accomplished curator sculptures into other artists’ shows, from and writer. In Hazlewood’s hands, simple means—plastic mesh, cut London to Manhattan. In this marvellous paper, pushpins, fabric, metallic string—assume formally and intellec- exhibition of works made between 1965 and tually complex dimensions. Slipping between painting, installation, and 1978, a grid of photographs, taken in New York drawing, he introduces ideas of the African diasporic experience (the City, in 1975, documents one such sculpture Middle Passage, Afro-Caribbean folktales) in layered compositions that in a host of urban vignettes: leaning casually are buoyant but searing. The shape-shifting trickster Anansi is one re- against a utility pole, a subway seat, and a curring motif (as seen in “BlackHead Anansi Ensnares the Sun,”pictured basketball court’s chain-link fence. A number above), a proxy, perhaps, for the ingenious artist himself.—Andrea K. Scott of physical examples of the sculptures—their hand-carved cylindrical segments based on mathematical sequences—appear in the ex- hibition, too, propped against or mounted on walls. But, visually speaking, these playful interventions pale beside the structured de- lirium of Cadere’s lesser-known paintings, in which biomorphic shapes in jewel tones and pastel hues join kaleidoscopic geometries in a seductive strain of Op art, an unexpectedly lush precursor to the provocations that fol- lowed.—J.F. (Ortuzar Projects; through May 7.) “Whitney Biennial 2022: Quiet as It’s Kept” This startlingly coherent and bold exhibition is a material manifesto of late-pandemic in- stitutional culture. Long on installations and videos and short on painting, conventional sculpture, and straight photography, it is exciting without being especially pleasur- able—geared toward thought. The innova- THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 5

and Alexandra Hutchinson, join two from the winds of change in his show “¡Viva!” Bach solo “Chaconne,” with a different guest City Ballet (April 22-24). The company also (April 22), in which seven male dancers, in- dancer each night. The second week’s pro- brings back Jerome Robbins’s “The Goldberg cluding Liñán, don the long dresses, fringed gram includes a première of its own—“Migrant Variations” (April 19-21, April 23, and April shawls, and elaborate hair styles usually asso- Mother,” a celebration of Indigenous culture, 26), an hour-long exploration of Bach’s work, ciated with female bailaoras. The show, both by the Mexican choreographer Raúl Tamez— one of the choreographer’s most experimental joyful and transformative, has been a huge along with Limón’s final work, “Waldstein ballets.—Marina Harss (David H. Koch Theatre; hit in Spain. “Gala Flamenca” (April 23-24) Sonata,” and a reconstruction of one of his through May 29.) is an evening of solos and group numbers, first, “Danzas Mexicanas.”—B.S. (Joyce Theatre; performed to live music, by a trio of extraor- April 19-May 1.) David Dorfman dinary dancers—Mercedes Ruiz, Eduardo Guerrero, and María Moreno. María Terre- Sasha Waltz & Guests Dorfman’s new piece “(A) Way Out of My moto, the twenty-two-year-old singer with Body” frets and wallows in the predicament of whom they share the stage, is a force in her The seductive premise of Sasha Waltz’s “In C” having a body and the desire to escape it. To a own right.—M.H. (City Center; April 22-24.) is that it is infinitely mutable, its structure tuneful score played by the singer-songwriter open but orderly, allowing for variation. The Elizabeth de Lise and a house band, the chore- Limón Dance Company piece is based on, and follows similar rules ography, for a cast of seven, stays in Dorfman’s to, the composer Terry Riley’s seminal Min- signature mode of sincere self-hurling and Seventy-six years after its founding and fifty imalist work, from 1964: as Riley did for his tender support. The choreographer, now in his since the death of its namesake choreographer, musicians, Waltz gives her dancers a series sixties, throws himself around while talking José Limón’s company endures. Its two-week of instructions, a structure to create dance about his mother and multiple sclerosis.—Brian season at the Joyce kicks off with the première phrases, which they execute as often as they Seibert (N.Y.U. Skirball; April 22-23.) of “Only One Will Rise,” by the accomplished choose, while remaining aware of the others Burkinabé-born choreographer Olivier Tar- onstage. Freedom combined with rules creates Flamenco Festival paga, but it also reaches back to “Air for the a flexible but harmonious system, a kind of G String,” a 1928 work by Limón’s mentor dance heaven, bathed in Olaf Danilsen’s jewel- After an absence of two years, this showcase of and the troupe’s first artistic director, Doris tone lighting. Waltz’s Berlin-based company new and vibrant flamenco returns. The dancer Humphrey. Limón’s majestic “Psalm” returns performs the piece at BAM.—M.H. (Howard and choreographer Manuel Liñán channels with its original score restored, as does his Gilman Opera House; April 28-30.) ON TELEVISION Mufutau Yusuf When Mufutau Yusuf was nine, he and his family emigrated from Nigeria to Ireland. Nine years later, he made his professional début with Irish Modern Dance Theatre, and in the following decade his reputation as a standout performer has grown. In “Òwe,” a cryptic fifty-minute solo, he investigates his in-between identity. Alone onstage with an audiovisual archive that mixes family photos and found footage of Nigerian history, he searches the archive that is his body—shaking, exploding, molding experience into art.—B.S. (Irish Arts Center; April 21-24.) There are so many shows featuring ripped-from-the-headlines stories that 1 ILLUSTRATION BY JOVANA MUGOŠA it’s a wonder there are any headlines left from which to rip. Thus, it can be difficult to tell what you should inhale, and what you should ignore. THE THEATRE “The Girl from Plainville,” now streaming on Hulu, falls somewhere in the muddled middle. The sensational 2015 court case that inspired the The Little Prince show is juicy and thorny, to be sure: Michelle Carter, a teen-age girl from Massachusetts, sent text messages encouraging her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, Co-directed by the French choreographer to kill himself, and he did. Does this make her a criminal? The story formed Anne Tournié, this interpretation of the well- the basis for an HBO documentary and countless think pieces, and yet loved book by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is, the creators of the Hulu series, Liz Hannah and Patrick Macmanus, have above all, a showcase of dance and aerial acro- done a valiant job injecting new life and nuance into it. Elle Fanning gives batics, performed by a virtuosic international a chilling performance as Michelle, as does Colton Ryan as Conrad, and ensemble. The show is led, in the title role, the supporting cast (Chloë Sevigny, Aya Cash, Cara Buono) is a dynamic by Lionel Zalachas, who enters the stage, im- bunch. But, even with artful camera angles and gauzy dream sequences, pressively, balanced on a large rolling ball the story ends up feeling more tabloid than tactful.—Rachel Syme that serves as his home planet. An onstage narrator (Chris Mouron, who adapted the 6 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 script and co-directed) recites much of the book’s text verbatim, but because the selection emphasizes the most sentimental lines, rather than the wryly faux-naïve flights of philosophy that make it unique, the story’s wisdom often gets lost amid the dancing, dazzling though it is. And it’s disappointing in a production of this scale that video projections (by Marie Jumelin), attractive though they are, substi- tute for physical sets.—Rollo Romig (Broadway Theatre; through Aug. 14.) Paradise Square Sentimental syrup has been liberally spooned over this new musical (with a book by Christina Anderson, Craig Lucas, and Larry Kirwan),


R. & B. Are we laughing at “The Patsy,” the century-old ian and Leonard Cohenian, he cultivates an air ILLUSTRATION BY SIMONE NORONHA play, or at Greenspan’s affectionate mockery of of inscrutability and depth—and often seems to As the front person of the progressive “The Patsy”? The answer, usually, is both at be up to something dirty.—Jay Ruttenberg (Music funk band the Internet, the singer-song- once.—R.R. (Abrons Arts Center; through April 30.) Hall of Williamsburg; April 27-28.) writer Syd has led the group’s eclectic charge into experimental music. Her solo 1 Joyce DiDonato work is something else entirely—vibrant R. & B. that honors the genre’s history. MUSIC CLASSICAL Joyce DiDonato’s new album, “Eden,” Her 2019 début, “Fin,” revelled in the rejoices in the glories of Mother Nature, but its freedom afforded by independence,diving A-Trak: “10 Seconds Vol. 1” ambitious scope, however admirable, leads it deeper into her player persona. Syd’s sec- astray. The set opens with Charles Ives’s iconic ond album, “Broken Hearts Club,” is the ELECTRONIC The Montreal native Alain Mack- instrumental piece “The Unanswered Question,” first music, solo or otherwise, to find her lovitch, who spins and produces records as and DiDonato sings the trumpet part—a usur- vulnerable and smitten, using her quiet A-Trak, approaches both d.j.’ing and beat-mak- pation that injects human knowledge into Ives’s voice to mimic the life cycle of head-over- ing with a straightforward effervescence that carefully cultivated atmosphere of mystery. The heels infatuation. It is lilting, lovelorn alt- allows him to play for any crowd—be it at a thematic cohesion of the texts doesn’t ameliorate blues that carefully traces the arc of a tryst Kanye West arena show (A-Trak once served the hodgepodge of styles: the opening sequence gone sour, and in her new role as monog- as a d.j. for the rapper) or in a tiny club full of moves from Ives to Rachel Portman (a cinematic amist she has never been more transpar- owlish techno nerds. “10 Seconds Vol. 1,” his commission entitled “The First Morning of the ent. Here, Syd achieves a novel sharp- new EP, was made with an old E-mu SP1200, World”), Mahler, and obscure figures from the ness as a writer, scripting honeymoon a late-eighties drum machine, sequencer, and Italian Baroque and Classical periods. The one romance and “what are we” entangle- digital sampler, and the end result has the constant is DiDonato’s polished singing—she ment with equal acuity.—Sheldon Pearce warmth, vibrancy, and choppiness of turn-of- has a way of winnowing her sound down to a the-nineties New York house, made with the thread, slender yet tensile, as she circumnavi- which uses the New York Draft Riots as the E-mu or similar systems, by the likes of Mas- gates an inspiring world. The orchestra Il Pomo backdrop to a tale of—what else?—resilience ters at Work and Todd Terry.—Michaelangelo d’Oro, led by Maxim Emelyanychev, plays with and love. It’s 1863, and in Manhattan’s slummy Matos (Streaming on select platforms.) crackling intensity, and it joins the mezzo-so- Five Points neighborhood Nelly O’Brien (Joa- prano at Carnegie Hall for a staging of the quina Kalukango) runs Paradise Square, a tav- Altin Gün and Sessa album.—Oussama Zahr (Carnegie Hall; April 23.) ern where Irish and Black neighbors gather to quaff ale as one. Nelly’s own family is merrily INTERNATIONAL This canny bill pairs the band Jawbreaker blended: she’s a Black woman married to an Altin Gün with the singer and guitarist Sessa— Irishman; her feisty Irish stereotype of a sister- fellow-travellers in the global rock underground, PUNK The punk trio Jawbreaker released four in-law, Annie (Chilina Kennedy), is wedded to a though they are musically and geographically re- albums in the nineties, all of them featuring Black reverend (Nathaniel Stampley). Personal moved. Altin Gün presents a cultural scramble, catchy songs, filled with ache and acuity, that and political tensions flare when Annie’s nephew with Turkish, Indonesian, and Dutch members still hit like winter blues beginning to thaw (A. J. Shively) arrives from the old country to psychedelicizing Turkish folk from their perch in spring. The band’s poetic lyrics, written by find himself threatened with Lincoln’s draft; in Amsterdam. The sextet’s third album, “Yol,” Blake Schwarzenbach, were a form of pop-punk meanwhile, Nelly, antagonized by a bigoted invokes the sensation of entering a foreign club literary compression. “I have a picture of you uptown party boss (John Dossett), risks every- while in a jet-lagged daze, with dance songs and me in Brooklyn / On a porch, it was raining thing by harboring an enslaved man on the run that seem suspended between eras and borders. / Hey, I remember that day,” goes a highlight (Sidney DuPont). The dancing (choreographed Sessa, a São Paulo native, purrs sinuous ballads from Jawbreaker’s classic 1994 record, “24 Hour by Bill T. Jones), which puts Irish step dancing that evaporate immediately into the ether. Like Revenge Therapy,” called “Do You Still Hate into dialogue with African American stepping, is his singer-songwriter touchstones, both Brazil- Me?” To that query, subsequent generations of superb; the voices sublime; the music (by Jason rock and emo musicians have offered a resound- Howland) and lyrics (by Nathan Tysen and Masi ing no—including emerging punk heroes such Asare) as broad as the maudlin story. What as the teen-aged Linda Lindas, who opens for stays in the mind is Kalukango, who explodes Jawbreaker this week, and a young New York through the schlock with cataclysmic force; she band that, a decade ago, named itself Jawbreaker deserves better than this show, and she’ll get Reunion. Jawbreaker’s actual reunion tour fo- it.—Alexandra Schwartz (Barrymore; open run.) cusses on the group’s final album, the glossier major-label jump “Dear You,” once vexed, now The Patsy cherished.—Jenn Pelly (Irving Plaza; April 27-30.) Is there anything more adorable on a New York The Jazz at Lincoln Center stage than David Greenspan flirting with him- Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis self? Jack Cummings III directs this revival, for Transport Group, of Greenspan’s fleet-footed JAZZ The Apollonian sheen of the Jazz at Lin- feat from 2011, in which one inexhaustible actor coln Center Orchestra may seem to go against plays all eight characters in a creaky, charming, the grain of the Dionysian vitality of Charles long-forgotten romantic comedy by Barry Con- Mingus’s music, but the bandleader Wynton ners, which débuted on Broadway in 1925. Green- Marsalis and his spit-and-polish crew have the span—ricocheting all over Dane Laffrey’s smart, requisite stamina and enthusiasm to honor the lilac-wallpapered cube of a set, without a single great man’s centennial in style. Mingus’s work costume change and little more than a telephone revelled in small-group interplay as well as or- for a prop—builds what feels like a lunatic stunt chestral complexity; Marsalis himself has crossed into a style that might be called precision camp. similar territory throughout his career, and he As the audience surrenders, a question arises: should bring considerable insight into making Mingus’s inimitable music come alive.—Steve Futterman (Rose Theatre; April 22-23.) LONG PLAY CLASSICAL Since 1987, Bang on a Can—a com- posers’ collective founded by David Lang, Julia Wolfe, and Michael Gordon—has been curating marathon-style contemporary-music 8 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

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concerts that run for twelve hours or more. (The clandestinely to the border so that the elder son, 1971 drama, as a pair of drug addicts drifting twentieth-anniversary edition took more than Farid (Amin Simiar), who’s about twenty, can through Manhattan’s horror holes in a state a day to perform.) The title of B.O.A.C.’s new illegally emigrate. The dangers of the journey are of mutual self-destruction. The overheated festival, LONG PLAY, indicates a new level marked by the family’s evasive maneuvers—leav- Bobby (Pacino), a crook since childhood, is a of enterprise, with more than sixty concerts ing cell phones behind, stopping suddenly in fear bundle of jitters and motormouthed sass from across three days, in venues around Brooklyn of being followed, communicating in code with the city streets. He cools down with the heroin (Roulette, Public Records, BAM, and Littlefield, a designated contact—and the extreme expense that his girlfriend, Helen (Winn), a torpid among others). The program reflects a healthy that the family has incurred. Yet the action high- artist from Indiana, uses to thaw her emotional appreciation for pioneers of the recent past: lights their sharp, contentious, intensely loving core (frozen solid by an illegal abortion). The there’s Karlheinz Stockhausen’s “Stimmung,” relationships. The unnamed mother (Pantea city seems rotted by the schemes of hustlers in Terry Riley’s “In C,” and, for the festival’s finale, Panahiha) struggles to suppress her anguish at need of a fix and by the law’s corrupting force a reimagining of Ornette Coleman’s 1959 album the impending separation; the cynical and disillu- (embodied by Alan Vint, as a soft-spoken, “The Shape of Jazz to Come.” A number of ex- sioned father (Hassan Madjooni) carps with for- hard-nosed detective). Schatzberg doesn’t ro- perimental composer-performers, including the lorn humor from the back seat; and the purpose manticize the addicts’ troubles; with a tender electronicist Phong Tran, the free-jazz bassist of the trip is concealed from the antically imag- but unsparing eye, he spins visual variations Brandon Lopez, and the vocalist Pamela Z, give inative and wildly impulsive young son (Rayan on shambling degradation and on fleeting concerts as well.—O.Z. (Various; April 29-May 1.) Sarlak). The story opens wider dimensions in relief, and makes the sudden lurch of moods, chance encounters with an ambitious bike racer ranging from bad to worse, his subject. Briskly 1 and with the families of other émigrés; Panahi’s panning telephoto shots, with their tremulous spare, controlled style unites intimate conflicts mysteries, reveal a city within a city, a second MOVIES and vast landscapes in framings as wry as they are world of experience that shows through New rhapsodic.—Richard Brody (In theatrical release.) York’s abraded surfaces.—R.B. (Playing on Hit the Road TCM April 20.) The Panic in Needle Park The jaunty title of the Iranian director Panah Petite Maman Panahi’s first feature belies the passionately In their first major movie roles, Al Pacino sombre story of a family of four that’s travelling and Kitty Winn star in Jerry Schatzberg’s Céline Sciamma’s latest film is her most con- cise, running a lean seventy-two minutes, and ON THE BIG SCREEN featuring a bare handful of characters and lo- cations. Yet nothing about it feels small. Nelly (Joséphine Sanz), aged eight, goes with her parents to stay in the house of her late grand- mother, in the French countryside. There, in the woods, she meets and befriends Marion (Gabrielle Sanz), who is not only her exact double but who will, as both girls gradually re- alize, grow up to become Nelly’s mother (Nina Meurisse). In other words, this is a time-travel movie, though it bears none of the traditional trappings of science fiction. What it investi- gates, with wistfulness and wit, is the theme of the lonely childhood, as well as our childish fascination with what our parents must have been like—who they were—when they were young. For good measure, we also get a suitably messy pancake-making scene.—Anthony Lane (In theatrical release.) One of the highlights of this year’s edition of New Directors/New Films, Saturday Fiction COURTESY IYUGI PRODUCTIONS running April 20-May 1 at MOMA and Film at Lincoln Center, is “Father’s Day,” the fourth fiction feature by the Rwandan director Kivu Ruhorahoza, This frenetic and paranoid thriller, by the which interweaves the lives of half a dozen main characters. Their stories, Chinese director Lou Ye, is set in Japanese- as the title suggests, are centered on paternity and its power: the cruelty and occupied Shanghai at the time of the Pearl arrogance of Karara (Yves Kijyana), a petty thief who is mentoring his young Harbor attack. With irony seething in his son in a life of crime; the despair of Zaninka (Médiatrice Kayitesi),a masseuse kinetic camerawork and silky black-and-white who is grieving for her son while fending off both a male client’s advances tones, Lou uses historical drama to expose and her ne’er-do-well husband’s financial demands; and the quiet rage of the corruption and the terror of a modern Mukobwa (Aline Amike), who discovers that her elderly father took part surveillance state. Gong Li plays Jean Yu, a in the genocidal massacres of 1994. Ruhorahoza’s drama reveals the hidden famous actress who returns to the city—where connections among his many characters and the underlying social conflicts British and French zones remain protected— that they confront. One man’s sexual abuse of a woman breeds the wanton to perform in a play, but she has an ulterior violence of another man, a self-proclaimed protector; the COVID pandemic motive: to inquire about her ex-husband, a threatens livelihoods, but as Zaninka tells a friend, it “only shakes things captive of Japanese forces. There, she also that were not solid to begin with.”—Richard Brody meets a manipulative French diplomat from her past (Pascal Greggory) and a mysterious young fan (Huang Xiangli). The high-stakes deceptions of espionage threaten romantic and professional relationships alike. Binoculars, two-way mirrors, hidden microphones, and encrypted messages add suspense to secret encounters; conflicting plots of collaboration and resistance spark public violence and turn the opening of a play into a political act of in- ternational import.—R.B. (In theatrical release.) 1 For more reviews, visit 10 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

PHOTOGRAPH BY COLE WILSON FOR THE NEW YORKER; ILLUSTRATION BY JOOST SWARTE 1 focaccia-adjacent Tuscan bread. (Schiac- menu.La Favolosa features Tuscan salami ciata means “squished,”as in with finger- and soft cubes of spicy marinated egg- TABLES FOR TWO tips.) I ate it, both hands required, on a plant,plus Pecorino and artichoke creams. doorstep across the cobblestoned street La Schiacciata del Boss encases Tuscan All’Antico Vinaio from the shop, drinking cold wine out of prosciutto, sliced Pecorino, and a gener- 729 Eighth Avenue a plastic cup. I saw, in vivid colors, what ous smear of inky black-truffle cream. all the fuss was about. I won’t take a side in the battle over There are plenty of sandwiches for whether the city’s office workers should Eighth Avenue is no Via dei Neri. vegetarians. Steer clear of La Caprese be expected to return to their desks as we The Florence shop is a two-minute walk outside of tomato season, unless you shift with an ever-evolving pandemic. I from the Palazzo Vecchio, home to the don’t mind a pale, mealy beefsteak; try, will note that anyone with a desk in or famous copy of Michelangelo’s David. instead, La Broadway, loaded, like La near Midtown West might be incentiv- The New York shop is a six-minute Paradiso, with stracciatella, pistachio ized by the promise of a superlative lunch. walk from the Times Square M&M’s cream, and, in place of mortadella, sun- Last November, All’Antico Vinaio, an World. But their interiors are mostly dried tomatoes, cubed zucchini, and a extraordinarily popular sandwich shop indistinguishable, and in New York handful of arugula.The L.A. Fade Away, that originated in Florence, Italy, before there’s a small horseshoe-shaped seat- which comprises those vegetables plus expanding to Milan and Rome, opened ing area, wooden counters, and a few eggplant and Gorgonzola, is satisfying its first U.S. outpost, in New York. I’ve stools, all flooded with sunlight one as well, though I’m not sure what it has been to Florence just once, for barely a recent afternoon. It was a pleasure to to do with L.A. (The New Yorker is day some summers ago, and what I did observe the work of a small team of ex- made with roast beef and onion-porcini with that day, other than speed through pert sandwich-makers—artists, really, to cream; there’s turkey and avocado in the Uffizi,was optimize for eating.Lunch borrow a term from Subway—including the Venice Beach.) Vegans will have a was at All’Antico Vinaio. one who had been transferred, indefi- harder time, as did the woman behind nitely, from Florence. me in line who announced that she liked I ordered La Paradiso, tripling down cheese but not “cold cheese.” If you eat on my favorite nut: thin coins of pista- Towering stacks of schiacciata emerged pork, to skip the meats—the salame, chio were spangled, like leopard spots, from the basement at regular intervals, the prosciutto, the capocollo, the por- throughout floppy folds of mortadella shiny with olive oil and sparkling with chetta, the ’nduja—is to do yourself a that had been layered with an oily, pesto- coarse salt, releasing clouds of steam from grave disservice. like “pistachio cream”and stretchy strac- a dense landscape of air bubbles as the ciatella (made from mozzarella curds loaves were sliced horizontally, ends sliv- My two favorite All’Antico sand- mixed with cream) dusted in crushed ered off and passed to patiently waiting wiches exalt the Tuscan art of salumi pistachio, stacked between enormous customers. Each slab was piled with irre- by including only meat and cheese, the rectangles of freshly baked schiacciata, a sistible combinations of freshly cut meats, saltiness of each sharpened by a drizzle of cheeses, flavored creams, and vegetables. truffle honey. La Toscana marries salame It can be hard to choose from the sixteen and Pecorino.The Dolcezze d’Autunno options, especially given an overlap in pairs Gorgonzola with lardo, cutting ingredients. A tiny chalkboard placard through the figurative fat by homing in on the counter helpfully lists the two on the purest stuff. (Sandwiches $10-$18.) best-sellers,which also sit at the top of the —Hannah Goldfield THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 11


THE TALK OF THE TOWN COMMENT weeks of pregnancy, in violation of prec- abortion after about six weeks, and al- edents establishing that abortion can- lows family members (including a rap- BEYOND ROE not be banned before “viability,”at around ist’s relatives) of the “preborn child” to twenty-four weeks. (On Friday, Florida sue a provider who performs an abortion. In 2003,when the Supreme Court held, became the most recent.) Some of the The law was passed last month, but Ida- in Lawrence v.Texas,that criminalizing laws have been blocked by the courts, ho’s Supreme Court has temporarily gay sex was unconstitutional, it insisted but, if Mississippi prevails, the states ex- blocked it from taking effect. Missouri that the decision had nothing to do with pect to be free to enforce these bans. has introduced a bill that allows private marriage equality. In a scathing dissent, citizens to sue an out-of-state abortion Justice Antonin Scalia wrote, “Do not Among the more restrictive bills cur- provider, or even someone who helps believe it.”Then,in 2013,when the Court rently under consideration across the transport a person across state lines for struck down the federal Defense of Mar- country, more than a dozen emulate an abortion. Wyoming has passed a law riage Act’s definition of marriage as being the Texas “heartbeat” law, which bans that bans most abortions, which will be between a man and a woman, emphasiz- abortion after six weeks of pregnancy triggered if the Supreme Court overturns ing the tradition of letting the states de- and allows only private citizens,not state Roe. The boldest effort thus far, though, fine marriage,Scalia issued another warn- officials, to enforce the ban. That pro- has been in Oklahoma, a destination for ing,saying that “no one should be fooled” vision insulates the law from being chal- Texans seeking abortions.Two weeks ago, into thinking that the Court would leave lenged as unconstitutional in federal Oklahoma’s legislature made it a felony states free to exclude gay couples from court. The Supreme Court repeatedly punishable by ten years in prison to per- that definition. He was finally proved declined to block the Texas ban,but did form an abortion except to save a wom- right two years later, when the reasoning leave open a possible avenue to chal- an’s life in a medical emergency.The gov- on dignity and equality developed in those lenge it. In March, the Texas Supreme ernor signed the bill last Tuesday; the law earlier rulings led to the Court’s holding Court closed that avenue. is set to go into effect in August. that the Constitution requires all states to recognize same-sex marriage. Idaho became the first state to enact Overturning Roe would be the cul- a Texas-inspired law. Idaho’s law bans mination of a half-century-long legal Just as rights can unfold and expand, campaign singularly focussed on that ILLUSTRATIONS BY JOÃO FAZENDA however, they can also retract and con- outcome. And there are signs that, far strict in breathtaking ways, pursuing a from being an end in itself, it would particular strain of logic one case at a launch even more ambitious agendas. In time. In the forthcoming decision in the Dobbs litigation, Mississippi denied Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Or- that doing away with Roe would cast ganization,the Court is widely expected doubt on other precedents, set between to overturn or severely undermine its 1965 and 2015, on which Roe rested or abortion-rights cases, Roe v. Wade and which relied on Roe. This series of de- Planned Parenthood v. Casey. In fact, cisions held that states cannot ban con- following the comments of the six con- traceptives, criminalize gay sex, or refuse servative Justices at the oral arguments to recognize same-sex marriage. The in December,the strength of this expec- state told the Court that those cases are tation has spurred state legislative ef- not like Dobbs, because “none of them forts to proceed as if Roe were already involve the purposeful termination of a gone. A handful of states have passed human life.” But all of them involve the laws, like the Mississippi law at issue in question of whether states should be able Dobbs, that ban abortion after fifteen THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 13

to make laws that affect some of the most not believe it” warning. Although the that was previously held to provide the intimate aspects of people’s lives. In re- legal arguments against Roe have fo- right to abortion,the Fourteenth Amend- cent weeks, in anticipation of the Dobbs cussed on returning the issue to the states, ment, which prohibits states from de- decision, various Republican senators for five decades the core moral belief priving “any person of life,liberty,or prop- have questioned Griswold v. Connecti- against the ruling has been that abor- erty without due process of law.”Fetuses cut, which struck down a state ban on tion is the termination of a human life. are currently not considered to be per- contraceptives; Obergefell v. Hodges, Last week, a twenty-six-year-old Texas sons. But Mississippi’s brief repeatedly which required states to recognize same- woman was arrested on murder charges, notes the human attributes of the fetus, sex marriage; and even Loving v. Vir- for “intentionally and knowingly caus- in utero, and it may be a precursor to fu- ginia,which invalidated a state anti-mis- ing the death of an individual by self- ture constitutional arguments to the effect cegenation law. Overturning Roe would induced abortion.” The prosecutor dis- that fetal personhood prohibits abortion. almost certainly fuel the broader fight to missed the case, saying that the Texas get fundamental moral issues out of the law did not apply to it. But the incident In the face of such a push, liberals realm of federal constitutional rights and suggested a possible post-Dobbs future, may one day find themselves advocat- under the control of the states. in which states pursue criminal charges ing for leaving the matter to the states, against people who have abortions as and perhaps even seeking novel meth- A Supreme Court decision overturn- well as against those who provide them. ods—like the one Texas concocted—to ing Roe would seek to justify itself on circumvent federal-court review of state the ground that it allows states to re- It may also be only a matter of time, laws protecting abortion access.Whether solve the issue of abortion for them- if Mississippi prevails,before pro-life legal or not it would take another fifty years selves, through democratic processes, efforts turn toward getting the Supreme or more for a fetal right to unfold, the rather than by having a resolution im- Court to recognize the constitutional pro-life legal movement has demon- posed on them. At that point, it will be rights of the fetus. These efforts would strated its ability to fight the long fight. tempting to echo Justice Scalia’s “Do focus on the same part of the Constitution —Jeannie Suk Gersen UNDERGROUND ing of stinky food, no clipping of finger- kid, the man breathing too close. Where CIVIL INATTENTION nails, no hogging the pole. No eye con- does bubble end and community begin? tact.Passengers keep to themselves.They One of the more surreal parts of last have been known to ignore, for instance, A week before the shooting, a 7 train week’s shooting on the N train was the presence of sharks (dead) and snakes hit a hunk of metal in the tunnel under a strange circularity. Here was an alleged (live), so long as the sharks and snakes the East River and got stuck for more perpetrator of monstrous subway violence also ignore them.When violations occur, than two hours. As the wait dragged on, who was attuned to, and dabbled in, our they can feel unusually disturbing. Sub- “you could kind of feel the tension, but civic arguments over subway violence. way disasters, as opposed to, say, car no one said anything,”Aissa Diop,a twen- “Eric Adams,what are you doing,brother?” crashes, traumatize because they remind ty-four-year-old marketing professional, he said in one YouTube rant. “Every car us of the fragility of this deal. What un- who was among the stranded, said the I went to was loaded with homeless peo- settled people about the alleged shoot- other day. Diop is not a bubble person ple.” He added, of the Mayor, “He can’t er’s videos was that he seemed deeply (“I’m the weird New Yorker who smiles stop no crime in no subways.” unbalanced and filled with hate—and at people,” she said), but it was Rama- not unlike the recent array of subway dan, and she was hungry. She stuck to Nobody doubted the ease of commit- menaces that have invoked the old Fear her iPhone. Then a man burst into the ting any crimes in any subways. The list City days: he knew the rules, and he de- car and ran out through the opposite door. of recent track-shovings, muggings, and clared them broken. “He was saying,‘Oh,no,I am outta here!’” hate crimes caused by untreated mental Diop said. Suddenly, everything felt up illness is long and troubling. The won- People who study this kind of thing for grabs. Diop ventured an icebreaker, der is that we’re able to keep a subway call the subway social compact “civil in- something along the lines of: Where are running at all.We pack people of all ages, attention.”We build personal bubbles to the “Showti-i-ime” guys when you need sizes, dispositions, tax brackets, and survive in the throng.The social psychol- them? Soon, she was leading the subway crankiness levels into a metal can in a ogist Stanley Milgram once sent his grad- car in a sing-along. “In Hindi, I think,” hole in the ground, and send them off, uate students into the subway with the she said.Immobilized strangers swapped bound only by a nebulous social contract. task of asking strangers to give up their stories. After the train moved again, they We doff our backpacks, tuck in our feet, seats.The results—most of the strangers stuck around for a while and hugged. and even,occasionally,unspread our legs. acquiesced—were less shocking than the We bear the sweaty armpit at nose level, process: the students found the asking to For others, the pull of oblivion is the errant elbow.There should be no eat- be torturous. Some nearly vomited. One all-powerful. Reflecting after the shoot- of the students reflected later,“That study ing, Lieutenant Mark Torre, the com- showed how much the rules are saving mander of the N.Y.P.D.bomb squad,said us from chaos.” But every day presents that, during a bomb threat, most people its own challenges: the escalating argu- flee,but not all.“You’ll have a bomb tech- ment, the mother being rough with her nician in this eighty-pound, essentially, suit of armor that’s going down to deal 14 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

with this package, and somebody some- try not to think of it as this huge, epic Faragallah plays a university porter,Ad- how slips past the police line, and they’ll thing, because it puts too much pressure ham’s brother-in-law, and, in this scene, walk right by them,”he said.“This is just on it,” she said the other day. The play a white British professor.“It started out the New York attitude, you know? They was supposed to open soon, at the Pub- as an economic thing,” Mansour said. see this guy in a suit of armor who’s ad- lic Theatre. Then again, the first time “Plays with smaller casts are way more dressing this thing—clearly something the production went into tech rehears- likely to get produced. But then some- is amiss here! But they’ll walk by like it’s als,in early 2020,it was supposed to open thing interesting started to happen with just somebody cleaning up dog waste.” on April 1st, and everyone knows what the Middle Eastern actors playing white happened next. “The joke, among peo- characters.”The professor,Jenkin,wants The day after the shooting, the dis- ple who spend time in the Arab-speak- Adham to emphasize his “outsider per- cussion among some commuters was, ing world,is that everything is ‘Inshallah,’” spective”—to read Wordsworth more subway or Uber? “I have patients ask- Mansour said. “You ask the cabdriver, like a Palestinian,basically—but he can’t ing themselves if they feel comfortable ‘Can you get me to the airport?’‘Inshallah.’ quite come out and say it.( Jenkin:“Your on the subway,” Ellen Vora, a psychia- I wasn’t raised Muslim, but that attitude work might be more interesting to us trist in the Village, said. She often treats feels appropriate right now.” if you could be more . . . you.”) “Part of people with subway anxieties; usually, the joke is just that Jenkin is so stiff- it’s the enclosed space, the crowds, or, Mansour’s father grew up in a Chris- upper-lip that Adham literally doesn’t recently, the coronavirus. Citing statis- tian family in southern Lebanon, in a understand what he’s getting at,”Man- tics, Vora reassures them that the sub- village near two Palestinian refugee sour said. “But there’s another layer way is safe. Avoidance only feeds anxi- camps. In 1958, with Lebanon about to ety. “I don’t mean to trivialize the descend into civil war, he left; he met Mona Mansour shooting—it was horrifying—but I’ve Mansour’s mother,a Norwegian Amer- found myself encouraging people to go ican,in Seattle,then settled in San Diego added to it when it’s Ramsey, whose ac- anyway.We are still more in danger every and, ostensibly, never looked back. “I’m tual father was forced out of Palestine time we get into a car.And there’s some- not his psychologist,but there was some- in 1948,saying these gently racist things.” thing life-affirming about being packed thing in me that, whenever he said, ‘I in with other humans.” don’t miss it,’never quite believed him,” At one point, Jenkin gets up to make Mansour said. tea. “It’s a tea bag, is it?” Faragallah said. The gunman was apprehended later “It wouldn’t be loose?” that day,with the help,in part,of a twenty- The impossible choices faced by ci- one-year-old Syrian immigrant named vilians in Lebanon in 1958 mirror those “Let’s say it’s a bag, and nobody bring Zack,who’d been installing security cam- faced by citizens of Syria in 2011, or up that it otherwise wouldn’t be,” Sarah eras at a bodega. He’d spotted the sus- Ukraine in 2022: stay, risking your life, Blush, the associate director, said. pect and began frantically warning pass- or go, possibly forever? Instead of ex- ersby. He recalled thinking, “Everybody ploring these questions via a fictional “I love the way you think,”Faragallah has headphones, everybody wants music, Lebanese family like her father’s, Man- said. He stood, crossed stage left, and nobody cares about anybody,but we have sour thought of the refugee camps up practiced steeping and stirring. Tabbal to care about this thing!” Zack became a the road.Her play became a “conditional sat,working through his British “ah”s (“Is local hero, hamming it up at a press con- trilogy”about a Palestinian Wordsworth it preventing me from advahncement?”). ference, commandeering the mike to in- scholar named Adham. “Conditional,” terview other witnesses. But he also rec- meaning that it splits, “Sliding Doors”- There was a quiet hubbub behind the ognized that,in his excited warnings,he’d style: in the first act, set in 1967, Adham folding table. Caroline Englander, the transgressed. He’d broken the bubble. So is in London for a Romantic-literature production stage manager, looked con- he offered an explanation.“Many people conference when war breaks out at home. cerned. Finally, she spoke up: “Mark think I am on drugs,” he said. “But I am The second act, set in 1982, shows a ver- would never believe a tea bag.” That’s not. I am fasting.” sion of his life in which he stayed in En- gland. The third act, set in the early —Zach Helfand two-thousands, imagines that he went home, or tried to. 1 The other day,at the Public’s rehearsal THE BOARDS space on Lafayette Street, Mansour sat STAY OR GO? behind a folding table,occasionally slid- ing a black mask aside to sip tea from In a sense,the playwright Mona Man- a Baseball Hall of Fame mug. Two of sour has been working on “The Va- the cast,Hadi Tabbal and Ramsey Fara- grant Trilogy” for fifteen years; in an- gallah, were doing a scene in which other sense, she’s been working up to it Adham,now a faculty member at a Brit- her whole life. It’s that kind of play.“You ish university, asks a more established colleague for career advice.The play fea- tures six actors in nineteen roles. Tab- bal plays Adham all the way through; 16 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

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Mark Wing-Davey, the director—the Kyiv in their mid-thirties, had spent a managed to evacuate Tasheva’s cat. only member of the cast or the crew who long day in meetings with European dip- “We’re I.D.P.s,” Tomak said—inter- actually is a British white guy—who was lomats. They’d been advocating for an nally displaced persons. “It’s a really out of the room.“I’m just trying to prevent E.U.ban on Russian fossil fuels,a seven- bad feeling, although I understand that a big tea disaster down the line,”she said. hundred-million-dollar-a-day habit that I am lucky indeed.” helps fund Russia’s war on Ukraine.They On April 1, 2020, the original open- also wanted to remind people that “I met Tamila back in 2014,”Papuash- ing night, Mansour and the cast gath- Crimea—a territory that Russia illegally vili said, at the table. He’d been on a ered on Zoom, drinking wine and read- annexed in 2014—is serving as a base for fact-finding mission in Ukraine,after the ing some poems aloud. They kept Vladimir Putin’s efforts to erase Ukrainian annexation of Crimea. meeting, every Friday night, until they identity.“We didn’t have too much hope,” reunited in the flesh. “One person in Tomak said, adding that their efforts “I met Simon a bit later, in Donbas,” the cast lost a family member during were unlikely to be “game-changing.” Tomak said,referring to the home of two that time,”Mansour said.“Another one She had on a black turtleneck and Cal- breakaway regions,Donetsk and Luhansk, had a baby. My marriage ended, and vin Klein sneakers. occupied for years now by pro-Russian Hadi”—the actor who plays Ad- separatist groups. ham—“went with me to sign the di- The host, Simon Papuashvili, a vorce papers. It’s been a long two years.” human-rights lawyer from Georgia, “In the war zone,” Papuashvili said. “The Vagrant Trilogy” had its first per- began the meal with a toast of rosé.“For Now the two women work for the Mis- formance,Mashallah,earlier this month. peace,” he said. sion of the President of Ukraine in the The Jenkin scene went over great. Even Autonomous Republic of Crimea. For- the tea-stirring got a laugh. “And for victory,” Tomak added. mer human-rights activists,they also vol- Tasheva, who wore a gray blazer unteer as fixers for international journal- —Andrew Marantz with a pearl brooch on the lapel, is an ists in Ukraine. exiled Crimean Tatar, from a Turkic 1 ethnic group indigenous to Crimea Tomak talked about the historical which Stalin deported en masse in 1944. origins of the war.“I think that this con- BRUSSELS POSTCARD Authorities have warned her not to re- versation has not yet started, interna- RESPITE turn to Crimea. (“Our security forces tionally, about the legacy of the Russian say to me, ‘You could be arrested im- Empire, and then the U.S.S.R. We’re Two tired Ukrainian officials who mediately,’” she said.) Brussels was the representing three peoples that suffered work in President Volodymyr Ze- pair’s last stop on a long journey from from Russia: Crimean Tatars, Geor- lensky’s administration arrived the other Lviv, the Ukrainian city near the Pol- gians, Ukrainians.” She added, “There night at a dinner party in their honor, in ish border. Tomak and Tasheva were was no tribunal over Stalin’s crimes and a leafy district of Brussels. Maria Tomak on a work trip there when Russia in- the U.S.S.R.’s crimes, as there was for and Tamila Tasheva, both residents of vaded Ukraine, in February. They had the crimes of Hitler and the Nazis.” not been home to Kyiv since. Tomak’s father was still there, but her pregnant “Truth was never established,” Pa- sister had made it to Lviv. Friends had puashvili said.He had helped coördinate the women’s trip from Lviv. First, they “Tonight’s main event—Man vs. Nature!” travelled by car to the Polish border and exited along a humanitarian corridor. “Psychologically, it’s very hard,” Ta- sheva said.“Because when you go through these corridors, you see the U.N.H.C.R. tents for refugees.” “You’re f leeing your own country,” Tomak said. “It’s not a good feeling.” They then took a bus to a registration point, where Papuashvili met them in a car. First stop: meeting with U.S. diplo- mats who had been relocated from Kyiv to a town in Poland; then a four-hour drive to Warsaw. From there, a flight to Brussels, and then to a hotel. Papuashvili’s wife, Lucia Mascia, served a squid pasta dish and arugula- and-citrus salad,and Papuashvili poured white wine. Conversation shifted be- tween English, French, Italian,Russian, Ukrainian, and a little bit of Georgian, as the hosts’ two daughters performed gymnastics in the next room. Brigitte Dufour, a French Canadian lawyer

who directs the Brussels-based Inter- turn Wikipedia into a tight ninety-min- Annie Rauwerda national Partnership for Human Rights, ute show, to take place in downtown called out,“Bravo, les filles,”and clapped Manhattan, the following Friday.Three mentioning that,you know,x to the eighth her hands. were local comedians; the fourth was power is called zenzizenzizenzic?” Annie Rauwerda,a University of Mich- Taking a break from backflips, Pa- igan senior, studying neuroscience, who Kavner said, “Cool reveal.” puashvili’s ten-year-old handed Tomak is the founder of the popular Instagram They discussed a game in which au- some drawings she’d made: a Ukrainian account @DepthsofWikipedia. dience members guess which article is f lag, captioned “Aller Ukraine” (“Go, longer: “List of fictional worms”or “List Ukraine”), and a Ukrainian woman in Rauwerda,twenty-two,is a year older of sexually active popes.”The answer was a traditional blouse and a beribboned than Wikipedia itself. For @Depthsof- worms.Kavner suggested offering bonus flower crown. Wikipedia, she ferrets out and posts the points to anyone who could name a fic- most esoteric extracts from the Web tional worm or a sexually active pope. “Wow, beautiful,”Tomak said.“Can I site—which is to say, from the collec- Rauwerda asked Kavner whether he keep them?” tive sum of human knowledge. Some had the names of the hundred and thir- recent articles posted: “Timeline of the ty-odd people who had bought tickets. Dufour’s dog had got into the choc- far future”; “Unknot,” a mathematical “I’m just curious if any, like, big-league olate cake she’d brought (“I hope he’ll be concept of the least-knotted possible Wikipedians are there,” she said. “If I alive when I get back”), but there were knot; “Judaism in Rugrats.” say something that’s kind of jokey . . .” backup desserts, and plenty of spray-can She paused. “I just don’t want, at any whipped cream. The Instagram account has more than point,to encourage vandalism”—insert- eight hundred thousand followers, in- ing fake facts into articles—“or to dis- Tomak explained that, although resi- cluding John Mayer, Neil Gaiman, and parage the very impressive democracy dents of Kyiv and Lviv now have use of Julia Fox. Grimes follows on TikTok. In that happens on Wikipedia all the time.” supermarkets and cafés, those in areas March, the account went mildly viral for “Everyone knows you’re coming at under the most intense Russian siege are spotlighting the earliest-known bar joke, this in good faith,” Kavner said. Some- cut off. “They have no access to basic in ancient Sumerian.“A dog walked into one brought up a meme from a“Simpsons” foods,water,nothing,”she said.She looked a tavern and said, ‘I can’t see a thing. I’ll episode in which Lisa has a dream about at the table,laden with delicacies,includ- open this one.’” (“The humor of it,” the being in a band of losers—“Garfunkel, ing mini fondant cakes.“Eating and drink- Wikipedia entry read, “is probably re- Messina, Oates, and Lisa!”—who get ing like this feels strange.Especially after lated to the Sumer way of life and has booed every time they go onstage. Then yesterday’s shocking photos from Bucha,” been lost.”) she wakes up: “Why would they come she said. “It’s just another feeling when to our concert just to boo us?” she asks. you see all those dead bodies.” The other day, after Rauwerda fin- Backstage, on the night of the event, ished a class in which she dissected the Rauwerda, in white high-heeled boots, Despite the rumors of chemical war- brain of a fly,she joined the Google Meet said that she was still thinking about fare,Tasheva said that she was glad they’d call, with her cat, to discuss “Depths of the “Simpsons”meme.“Why would they be going back the next day. Wikipedia LIVE!,”the first in-person event come to our show just to boo us?” she for this inherently online community. said, nervously. A few minutes later, she “This is a psychological rest,” Tomak Tickets sold out; she was nervous. Reas- went onstage and opened with the said. “But you also feel guilty. Not only suring words came from Reed Kavner, Sumerian dog joke; it killed. being here . . .” who hosts a PowerPoint-based comedy show. In the other squares were Ena Da —Naaman Zhou Tasheva finished the sentence: “But and Juan Nicolón, from Uruguay. The because you’re alive.” plan was to mix comic presentations with games of audience interaction.Rauwerda —Annie Hylton would m.c.; Nicolón was down to do a ten-minute set drawing on the Wikipe- 1 dia article “List of soups.” Rauwerda, scrolling, said, “I just opened it. Guess DEPT. OF KNOWLEDGE what I landed on? Tiger-penis soup!” WIKIPEDIAN “This is why you’re good at this, There are more than 6.4 million En- Annie,” Kavner said. glish-language articles on Wikipe- dia, covering knowledge as useful as Other events: Wikipedia racing,where “Bee removal” and as specific as “List contestants start on one page and race to of people who have lived in airports.”If another via hyperlinks,and a game called compressed, the entire online encyclo- Citation Needed. Rauwerda ran through pedia would take up only twenty giga- her opening remarks, which included bytes.(Source for this claim? The Wiki- slides on “Polar bear jail,”“Breast-shaped pedia article “Size of Wikipedia.”) On hill,”and “Unrequited love.”“I might de- a recent Tuesday, four friends gathered lete this?” she said, pausing on a slide via Google Meet to work out a way to called “Zenzizenzizenzic.”“I just felt like THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 19

ANNALS OF INNOVATION lithium-ion, or Li-ion, after the chem- ical process that makes it work. Such POTENTIAL ENERGY batteries power everything from mo- bile phones to electric vehicles; they To maximize renewable energy, we’ll need a new technology: renewable storage. are relatively inexpensive to make and getting cheaper. But typical models ex- BY MATTHEW HUTSON haust their stored energy after only three or four hours of maximum output, The German word Dunkelflaute means ual storms or windless nights but for and—as every iPhone owner knows— “dark doldrums.”It chills the hearts Dunkelflaute that stretch for days or their capacity dwindles, little by little, of renewable-energy engineers, who use longer. Last year, Europe experienced with each recharge. It is expensive to it to refer to the lulls when solar panels a weeks-long “wind drought,” and in collect enough batteries to cover lon- and wind turbines are thwarted by clouds, 2006 Hawaii endured six weeks of con- ger discharges. And batteries can catch night, or still air. On a bright, cloudless secutive rainy days. On a smaller scale, fire—sites in South Korea have ignited day, a solar farm can generate prodigious factories, data centers, and remote com- dozens of times in the past few years. amounts of electricity; when it’s gusty, munities that want to go all-renewable wind turbines whoosh neighborhoods need to fill the gaps. Germany is de- Venkat Srinivasan, a scientist who to life. But at night solar cells do little, commissioning its nuclear power plants directs the Argonne Collaborative Cen- and in calm air turbines sit useless.These and working hard to embrace renew- ter for Energy Storage Science (AC- renewable energy sources stop renewing ables, but, because of the problem of CESS), at the Argonne National Labo- until the weather, or the planet, turns. “intermittency”in its renewable power ratory, in Illinois, told me that one of supply, it remains dependent on fossil the biggest problems with Li-ion bat- The dark doldrums make it diffi- fuels—including imported Russian gas. teries is their supply chain.The batter- cult for an electrical grid to rely totally ies depend on lithium and cobalt. In on renewable energy. Power compa- The obvious solution is batteries. 2020, some seventy per cent of the nies need to plan not just for individ- The most widespread variety is called world’s cobalt came from the Demo- cratic Republic of the Congo. “Unless Decarbonization would be easier if we could bank clean energy for later. we have diversity, we’re going to be in trouble,” Srinivasan said. Any disrup- tion to the supply chain can strongly affect prices and availability. Moreover, a lot of water and energy are required for mining the metals, which can cause environmental damage, and some co- balt-mining operations involve child labor. Experts doubt that Li-ion prices will drop more than thirty per cent below their current levels without sig- nificant technological advancements—a drop that is still too small, according to the Department of Energy.We need to expand our capacity; by one estimate, we’ll require at least a hundred times more storage by 2040 if we want to shift largely to renewables and avoid climate catastrophe. We may somehow find clean and reliable ways to mine, dis- tribute, and recycle the ingredients for Li-ion batteries. And yet that seems unlikely. Although we usually think about renewable energy in terms of its sources, such as wind turbines and solar panels, that’s only half the picture. Ide- ally, we’d pair renewable energy with renewable storage. We already have one kind of renew- able energy storage: more than ninety per cent of the world’s energy-storage capacity is in reservoirs, as part of a re- markable but unsung technology called 20 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 ILLUSTRATION BY HUDSON CHRISTIE

pumped-storage hydropower. Among 2021, when a winter storm shut down ciples are ones you might recall from other things, “pumped hydro” is used to gas plants for several days and left mil- high-school physics. If you put effort smooth out spikes in electricity demand. lions without power. More than two into lifting an object, it stores potential Motors pump water uphill from a river hundred people died.The crisis had many energy; if you then let that object fall, or a reservoir to a higher reservoir; when causes, including the fact that Texas is its potential energy becomes kinetic en- the water is released downhill, it spins the only state whose power grid isn’t ergy,which is capable of powering a gen- a turbine, generating power again. A connected to grids in other states. “We erator and creating electricity.The same pumped-hydro installation is like a giant, were pulling buckets of water out of the holds for many physical actions. In ad- permanent battery, charged when water neighbor’s pool to get toilets to flush,” dition to lifting weights, energy-storage is pumped uphill and depleted as it flows Wright said. “It definitely screams for companies are compressing air or water, down.The facilities can be awe-inspiring: some way to store power to lessen the or making objects spin, or heating them the Bath County Pumped Storage Sta- burden on the grid in times like that.” up. If you use clean energy to do the ini- tion, in Virginia, consists of two sprawl- tial work and find a green way to store ing lakes, about a quarter of a mile apart The artificial underground reservoirs and release it, you’ve created an ecolog- in elevation, among tree-covered slopes; created by companies like Quidnet are ically responsible battery alternative. at times of high demand, thirteen mil- known to engineers as “lenses,” because lion gallons of water can flow every min- of their shape. (“I say whoopee cushion “I’m kind of surprised and encour- ute through the system, which supplies and people don’t like it,”Craig said.) Ini- aged that the solutions to the long- power to hundreds of thousands of tially, Quidnet encountered skepticism duration-energy-storage problem could homes. Some countries are expanding about its ability to form lenses of the be the caveman stuff,” Craig said. Bat- their use of pumped hydro, but the con- right size and shape. By the time I vis- teries depend on “pretty sophisticated struction of new facilities in the United ited, however, it had successfully com- electrochemistry that quickly gets out- States peaked decades ago. The right pleted multiple pumping cycles in Texas, side of what I understand. And yet the geography is hard to find, permits are Ohio,and Alberta.The company has re- solutions may be picking up heavy stuff difficult to obtain, and construction is ceived thirty-eight million dollars in pri- with cranes, picking up the earth with slow and expensive. The hunt is on for vate and government funding, including a hydraulic jack. I think there’s some new approaches to energy storage. contributions from Breakthrough En- fellas in Nevada that are putting rocks ergy Ventures, established by Bill Gates. in a train and rolling it uphill, then they Quidnet, a Houston-based startup, come back down. Like, Fred Flintstone is one of many companies explor- Quidnet has benefitted from an en- would be comfortable with most of this ing the possibilities. Last month, I sat ergy-storage gold rush. In 2018, the De- stuff. It could be the way.” in an F-150 King Ranch pickup with partment of Energy awarded thirty mil- Scott Wright, its vice-president of op- lion dollars in funding to ten groups, We pulled into the farm’s long drive. erations, and Jason Craig, its C.O.O., including Quidnet, through a program A kettle of vultures circled overhead. as we drove to one of its test sites, on a called Duration Addition to electricitY farm west of San Antonio. Fields and Storage, or DAYS. Before leaving office, “You know what that means?”Craig billboards whizzed by as Craig explained, President Donald Trump signed into asked. from the back seat, that Quidnet had law the Energy Act of 2020, which in- patented a new kind of pumped hydro. cluded the bipartisan Better Energy “The last reporter who came out Instead of pumping water uphill, the Storage Technology (BEST) Act,autho- here?” I said. company’s system sends it underground rizing a billion dollars to be spent over through a pipe reaching at least a thou- five years on the “research,development, They laughed. “That’s right. Too sand feet down. Later, the system lets and demonstration”of new energy-stor- many bad questions.” the Earth squeeze the water back up age technology. Many states are now under pressure, using it to drive gener- setting storage-capacity targets, and in I already had one in mind. Was I ators. Wright and Craig are veterans of 2018 the Federal Energy Regulatory about to see part of the future of green the oil and gas industry, and Quidnet’s Commission issued Order 841, which energy, or a curious and short-lived ex- technology is like a green riff on frack- integrates stored energy into the whole- periment in rural Texas? ing. In that technique, fluid is injected sale electricity market. “There’s been a underground, where it builds up pres- recognition that this is a technology Until recently,we didn’t have to think sure that fractures rocks, releasing nat- whose time has come,” Jason Burwen, much about new ways to store our ural gas.Quidnet uses some of the same of the American Clean Power Associ- energy. Fossil fuels are a prehistoric en- equipment and expertise,but with a dif- ation, told me. But a vast distance sep- ergy repository, and we could unlock ferent goal: the water is meant to be arates an engineer’s whiteboard from their energy by burning them and driv- sandwiched between layers of rock, reality. Many renewable-storage tech- ing generators. There was always more forming underground reservoirs that nologies receiving funding will turn out fuel to burn. “Almost all electricity in can be released on demand. to be too impractical, expensive, or in- the world is used as it’s made,”Bill Gross, efficient for widespread adoption. a longtime investor in solar power and As we drove, I asked about the black- a co-founder of Energy Vault, one of outs Texas experienced in February of As we approached the farm, Craig the most highly capitalized new energy- mused on the raw physicality of many storage companies,told me.Most power companies’ approaches. The basic prin- that isn’t consumed immediately is lost. The problem is that, with many tech- nologies,“it actually costs more to store electricity than to make it,” he said. In THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 21

many cases,solar and wind have become pleted in 1978, in Germany; such sys- with violent force.” It has built a proto- less expensive than coal and gas. But tems can store and release vast amounts type liquid-air system and is developing add the cost of storage, and renewables of energy.But,like pumped hydro,com- commercial plants in England and Spain. can lose to fossil fuels. pressed-air facilities require the right geography and are expensive to build. Quidnet, too, is producing a refine- Energy is stored all around us, in all They are also inefficient—typically,only ment of pressure-based technology. At sorts of ways. A bottle of fizzy water in half the energy put into pressurizing the company’s test site, we were greeted your fridge holds energy under pressure; the gas can be retrieved. by Jacob and Sadie Schweers, the farm’s a tower of books contains energy, which owners.About a year earlier,Quidnet had is released when it falls.On a larger scale, Engineers are trying to improve den- dispatched a drilling rig—a seventy-foot volcanic eruptions and avalanches release sity and efficiency.AToronto-based com- mast attached to a truck—to their prop- stored energy.But energy storage is most pany called Hydrostor has received more erty. Now a blue wellhead stood about useful when it is predictable, convenient, than three hundred million dollars in ten feet tall, near a pump house the size and dense, packing lots of power into a funding and is developing projects in of a shipping container, several yellow small space. Climate change notwith- California, Australia, and other places, tanks, and a bunch of hoses.Water could standing, fossil fuels meet all these re- to be brought online in the next five years. be pumped from the tanks into the well, quirements: by burning just a gallon of It stores compressed air in tanks, and where it would be stored under pressure; easily transported gasoline, you can re- holds on to the heat released during the then it could be released back to the tanks. lease enough energy to move thousands air-compression process, which it then Last month, Quidnet announced a pilot of gallons of water from the bottom of reapplies to the air during expansion,su- program to provide stored-energy tech- a pumped-hydro station to the top. percharging its ability to drive a turbine nology to a utility in San Antonio. and generate electricity. A British com- Today’s Li-ion batteries are low- pany, Highview Power, is taking a more We stepped inside the pump house density by comparison, and renewable- extreme tack, cooling air to more than to admire the pistons, the flywheel, and storage systems also struggle to achieve three hundred degrees below zero, at something called a pulsation dampener. density, convenience, and scale. The which point it becomes a liquid. Liquid A yellow five-hundred-horsepower die- basic technology behind compressed- air is dense, and when Highview warms sel engine sat quietly in the back, ready air energy storage goes back decades, it, it gasifies rapidly, spinning turbine to run the pump. “I love big machines and can involve pumping air into under- blades. Colin Roy, Highview’s executive and loud things and the smell of oil,” ground caverns,natural or artificial,then chairman, told me that, when the com- Wright said. In a commercial version letting it out again. The first under- pany opens its tanks, air “explodes out of the system, an electric motor, ideally ground compressed-air facility was com- powered by clean energy, would pump the water, and act as a generator when “One of these days, Jensen will come to understand that the water returned. hiding under the table only works for so long.” As we walked back outside, into the hot sun,Wright gestured toward ten sep- arate PVC pipes sticking out of the ground.They indicated the subterranean presence of tiltmeters, instruments for assessing the size and character of the lens by tracking the displacement of the rock; they can even sense the tidal tug- ging of the moon. We stood and chat- ted, and Craig said that the tanks would eventually be replaced by an attractive pond. Sadie Schweers told us that she likes to picture the whole farm running on solar panels and a Quidnet well. People who work in energy often speak of the grid as if it had its own hun- gers and quirks. “The grid wants a di- versity of assets,” Mateo Jaramillo, the C.E.O. of Form Energy, which makes “iron-air” batteries, told me. (The tech- nology, which stores energy by rusting and un-rusting metal in a cycle, is one of a number of theoretical alternatives to Li-ion.) There’s room for many kinds of solutions in the clean grid to come; at the same time, the landscape is hyper- competitive. “Everyone’s competing

against pumped-storage hydro and • • lithium-ion,” Scott Litzelman, the di- rector of DAYS, the Department of En- companies. He wondered if he could servers running at data centers. Gross ergy program, told me. “Lithium-ion is construct a system based on the same and Pedretti founded Energy Vault in just so dominant, given that there’s such principles as pumped hydro, but with 2017, with Robert Piconi, the compa- a significant supply chain and manufac- solids instead of liquids. Rather than ny’s C.E.O. It has offices in Los An- turing base.”Referring to the non-battery pumping water uphill and releasing it geles and Switzerland. startups, he said, “You have these other downhill, could you stack weights using nascent technologies that could be more clean energy, then generate power by Energy Vault’s first attempt at a sys- competitive if they can get to scale.That’s using pulleys to lower them? “I wanted tem was EV1, a looming,Transformer- the challenge across the industry. Every- to make a sort of virtual mountain,” he like tower crane with six arms.The idea one’s trying to get to that point to prove, told me. was that such a crane would stack blocks first, the technical viability and the cost in a wall around itself, then unstack potential, and then prove this not in the Gross and a civil engineer, Andrea them. Observers on the Internet had a laboratory, but at a massive field site.” Pedretti, started looking at options. field day pointing out what they per- They wanted to “build height cheaply,” ceived to be the system’s impracticality. Shirley Meng, a materials scientist Gross said. Steel was expensive. So was (A YouTube video titled “The Energy and engineer at the University of Chi- concrete, and producing it emitted car- Vault Is a Dumb Idea, Here’s Why”has cago, told me that the world needs “a bon. They began working with a com- been viewed two million times.) In any whole suite of storage methods.”Not all pany called Cemex on the use of a “su- case, the company moved on to a new, methods will find a niche, but, she said, perplasticizer”—a polymer capable of enclosed design, called EVx. In render- “I think we are way, way underinvested. holding dirt together, often used to ings,it resembles a boxy automated ware- Because we are really imagining trying build roads in low-income countries. house forty stories tall. Elevators will to rebuild the entire grid system.” Na- Mix superplasticizer with local dirt, use clean power to lift blocks weighing than Ratledge,a clean-energy researcher water, and a bit of cement, and you can as much as thirty tons and put them on at Stanford, told me that energy storage make cheap blocks on site. “So we can trolleys, which will move them toward could play an especially important role basically make a mountain out of dirt,” the middle of the structure. When en- in places where power grids are still being Gross said. “And we can make that ergy is needed,the blocks will be moved built. Many countries in the developing mountain every day, and unbuild that back to the elevators. As they descend, world have a chance to leapfrog fossil mountain every day.”Matching pumped the elevators will power generators,pro- fuels altogether, heading straight to re- hydro in scale would be ambitious. But ducing new electricity. Energy Vault newable power, which is cheaper and even midsize mountains might be able claims that the system will have a high less polluting. But a grid with a larger to stash energy made at co-located solar round-trip efficiency,regenerating a great proportion of wind and solar requires farms or nuclear plants, or keep the deal of the electricity it consumes. Yet more storage capacity to overcome in- termittency.Renewable storage is “a win- win-win for the Global South,”Ratledge said. “It’s basically allowing people to jump really fast into the twenty-first cen- tury without dealing with all the out- dated junk we built in the seventies and eighties and nineties.” Driving back in Wright’s truck, I thought about how things might look if Quidnet’s wells make headway. To- day’s pumped-hydro plants form pictur- esque lakes on the Earth’s surface, but approaches like Quidnet’s would create reservoirs of pressurized energy beneath it. The company envisions terrain dot- ted with wellheads about half a mile apart, and a pond for every four. Wind turbines might rise skyward.The Earth itself would be a kind of giant battery. Bill Gross, the Energy Vault co- founder, began looking into energy storage after a long career in West Coast tech, during which he started a string of successful dot-coms and solar-power THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 23

“We can’t leave her with my parents! Do chestrate the motions of elevators and you want her to turn out like me?” trolleys to keep power consistent as blocks accelerate, decelerate, and are •• lifted and lowered. even so EVx will have to move thou- ney. Previously, Tybor had been the Energy Vault’s lead mechanical en- sands of heavy blocks to store and re- principal engineer for launch and land- gineer, Al Sokhanvari, came over. He’d lease significant amounts of energy.Or- ing pads at SpaceX. (Sydney had “been spent thirty years completing aerospace dinarily,our energy use is an abstraction; in enough rocket control rooms that if projects for NASA and the Defense Ad- Energy Vault’s approach reveals it in you count backwards from ten to zero vanced Research Projects Agency, and stark, physical terms. and nothing happens she gets upset,” had helped build the fountain at the Tybor said.) Energy Vault was similar Bellagio, in Las Vegas. (“But this is the The EVx demo is being developed to SpaceX, he told me, in that “it seems coolest,you have to admit,”Piconi said.) in a bucolic Swiss mountain valley in large and industrial, but the secret sauce In a sense, an EVx building would be the shadow of EV1. In March, Piconi is how we make it all work robustly.” like a fountain, but with blocks of earth gave me the sales pitch. After donning On a big screen, we saw a car-size block circulating instead of water. When it hard hats, vests, and eye protection, we trundling back and forth on a trolley was storing a lot of power, the ware- stopped by the block-making machine, as sensors gathered data about wear house would be top-heavy, with many a big blue steel box. It compresses the and tear. tons of blocks on its upper floors; the blocks’ingredients using seven thousand blocks would flow to the bottom as tons of force, then flips them upright, Outside, Piconi and I went to find power was withdrawn. “So you have to making a new one every fifteen min- the trolley we’d seen on the screen. We make it something that is actually utes.“You don’t go buy this at Walmart,” walked past tall blocks of various com- breathing with weights in and out,” Piconi said. positions, as though we were at a con- Sokhanvari said. Such a building would struction site for the pyramids, before be like “a living thing.” Nearby, we saw two of the trolleys coming upon Vahe Gabuchian, the test that will carry the blocks to and from engineer who was controlling the trol- Developing energy storage is risky. EVx’s elevators. I placed my hand on ley. He had studied fracture mechanics Unlike Quidnet, Energy Vault is one of the hard plastic wheels. The at Caltech, and wanted to know if any publicly traded; it has a market cap of company was still experimenting with of the components would crack during more than a billion dollars, but its fu- trolley materials, Piconi said: “A lot of thousands of miles of rolling and vibra- ture is uncertain.The technology is still what we do is material science.” We tion.Nearby,a four-story structure made in its early stages, and it can be hard to headed to the control room, which of I-beams offered a tiny preview of tell how much of the excitement about turned out to be a trailer fitted with what a final EVx might look like. The the company reflects salesmanship, as computers, where Frank Tybor, Energy warehouse, if it works, will be a mov- opposed to viable engineering. No one Vault’s vice-president of engineering, ing puzzle. Software will need to or- has built a facility like EVx before, and sat with his Australian shepherd, Syd- the system contains moving parts that might break down more than expected. Venkat Srinivasan, the ACCESS direc- tor, noted that lithium-ion batteries are portable and, crucially, reliable. “If you’re operating on the grid, reliability is No. 1, 2, and 3, right?” he said. Utili- ties want products and companies that have a decade’s worth of data behind them. Investors are putting a lot of money into new energy firms,but “some of these bets won’t go the way we think,” he said. “There’ll be multiple reasons for it. Some of it could be technologi- cal, but it’s also execution.” Li-ion batteries, despite their flaws, are a known quantity.The method being developed by Energy Vault isn’t. Still, the company isn’t alone in pursuing what’s known as “gravity storage.”Grav- itricity, based in Scotland, recently con- cluded a demonstration that involved hefting a fifty-ton block up a tower,two stories at a time; it now plans to raise 24 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

and lower single, thousand-ton blocks down, retrieving their energy. (“The that give enormous amounts to the Re- inside disused mine shafts. Two other grid loves spinning metal,” one engi- publican Party,” Stokes said. “This is companies, Gravity Power, in Califor- neer told me.) not some kind of ideological cleavage. nia, and Gravity Storage GmbH, in It’s fundamentally a material issue.”For Hamburg,aim to place a massive weight Litzelman believes that energy-stor- the time being, storage policy exists in at the bottom of a shaft and then pump age systems will eventually bring down what Stokes calls the “fog of enact- water underneath to lift it.To withdraw the over-all cost of decarbonization, ment,” where technologies are so new energy, they’ll let the weight push the but acknowledged that they might not that we can’t yet identify their greatest water down into a pipe and through a be an easy sell. “The grid, in quotation beneficiaries. Inevitably, there will be turbine. RheEnergise, based in Mon- marks, is not a customer,” one of his some losers, even if as a society—and treal, has come up with yet another take colleagues likes to say. Real customers a planet—we come out ahead. on pumped hydro, centered on a fluid are independent power producers, util- that the company invented called R-19, ities, and companies that run factories The grid as a whole may never be which is two and a half times as dense or data centers. One challenge is fig- perfected. We may never be able as water; its system will move the fluid uring out who pays for what. It also to get away from technologies with un- between tanks at the top and bottom matters how well a solution meshes desirable by-products; we may always of an incline. The work is still at the with the grid—and that depends on rely in part on fossil fuels and nuclear crowdfunding stage. many factors. Jaramillo, of Form, the power, backed up by Li-ion batteries iron-air-battery company, said, “You and natural-gas “peaker”plants, used at Just as you can store potential en- cannot look at one spec sheet and com- times of high demand. But it’s equally ergy by lifting a block in the air, you pare it to another spec sheet and say, possible to envision a future in which can store it thermally, by heating things ‘Ah, better round-trip efficiency, this some of the technology works out, and up.Companies are banking heat in mol- one’s better.’ ” His company has used the globe is reshaped by a combination ten salt, volcanic rocks, and other mate- computer models that draw on data of renewable energy and renewable stor- rials. Giant batteries, based on renew- about weather and markets to figure age. In such a world, wind turbines and able chemical processes,are also workable. out how its technologies might fit. Ja- solar farms will spread over fields and In so-called flow batteries, tanks can be ramillo happens to have a master’s in coastlines,while geothermal plants draw used to manage electrolytes, which hold theology—a discipline that he said was power from below. Meanwhile, in caves a charge. In hydrogen storage, electrol- surprisingly useful in understanding and tanks, hydrogen and compressed ysis is used to separate hydrogen from energy-storage systems. “All storage air will flow back and forth. In indus- oxygen in water; the hydrogen is then systems have trade-offs,” he said. “It’s trial areas,energy warehouses will thrum cached underground, or in aboveground not so different from humans. I am far with the movement of mass. In rural tanks, as gas or liquid or part of ammo- from perfect. I’m very happily married places,water will be driven belowground nia. When it’s recombined with oxygen only because my wife tends to not care and then will gush back up. When the in a fuel cell, it forms water again and as much about my flaws as somebody sun comes out and the wind rises, the releases electricity. else might.”The important thing is that grid will inhale, and electricity will get everything fits together. saved. During the doldrums, the grid Srinivasan told me that he often will exhale, driving energy to factories, looks at new proposals and thinks,“Hey, It’s partly because storage strength- homes, offices, and devices. Instead of that could be part of the solution.”Lit- ens the whole grid that it has found burning dead things, in the form of fos- zelman, of the Department of Energy, broad political support. Energy-stor- sil fuels, we’ll create and store energy said that the range of ideas being pur- dynamically, in a living system. sued “suggests that no one has found age technologies “are neutral as to the a combination that hits every single fuel source,” Leah Stokes, a political When I got back from Switzerland, requirement—very low cost, produc- scientist at the University of Califor- I took a walk.The sun warmed my face, tion at scale, high performance.”In one nia, Santa Barbara, told me. They “can and I blinked in the breeze.Twenty years likely scenario, many technologies will store any kind of power—clean or dirty.” ago, it seemed inconceivable to many proliferate,each solving a different prob- Storage may become a partisan issue if people that sunlight and wind could lem. Some will ameliorate Dunkelflaute. it begins clearly helping renewable en- provide enough energy to meet our Others will help the grid avoid conges- ergy to threaten fossil fuels. “The po- needs. Slowly, our intuitions shifted to tion, or hold energy so that it can be liticization of climate and energy pol- accommodate renewable energy.A sim- bought and sold. Still others will assure icy comes from fossil-fuel companies ilar revision could come for renewable “power quality,” smoothing out sec- storage.Looking up,I saw clouds hang- ond-to-second electrical fluctuations. ing in the sky, on the verge of rain; they One smoothing technology currently were a bank of potential energy. Below in use is the flywheel: in advanced ver- my feet, I imagined the ground dipping sions, masses of metal weighing a ton ever so slightly under the city’s weight, or more levitate in vacuums by means ready to spring back. Nature can help of magnets, as electric motors rotate us generate power. Maybe it can help them tens of thousands of times per us hold on to it, too.  minute. Generators then slow them THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 25

SHOUTS & MURMURS my life, but the sick thing is that I’m-a grateful.That’s-a how fucked up my back MARIO is. I’m-a crying from agony and thank- ing him at the same time,because I know BY SIMON RICH this shot, it’s-a going to at least give me a few days of relief. And he says, “We It’s-a me, Mario! I was-a working as way to explain it is-a to start from the need-a to schedule the surgery, Mario. LUCI GUTIÉRREZ a plumber in New York when I fell-a beginning of last week, which is when The one we’ve been-a talking about. To down a pipe and landed in the Mush- shit really started to get-a, like, super fuse-a your spine. Recovery’s-a going to room Kingdom. Pretty soon, I was-a fucked up. be brutal, but the alternative is you having all kinds of super-fun adven- could-a end up in a wheelchair.You could tures, crushing Koopas, dodging ham- Here we go . . . lose-a your ability to walk.”And he gives mers, and jumping through castle after me his card and writes down his cell- castle. It’s-a like my whole life was a So basically one day I wake up, and phone number on it, and I’m-a think- game.I’d-a wake up each morning shout- it’s-a like I can’t-a move my back. ing, Mamma mia, it must be serious if ing, “Wahoo! Yiiiiippeee! Here we go!” Like, at all. So I go to Dr. Mario (no re- he’s-a giving me his private line. And I lation), and he’s-a, like,“Mario, when’s-a walk out of his office, and I’m-a staring That feels like a really long time ago. the last time that you had a physical?” at his card, and I’m-a just, like, “I can’t I was-a born in 1981, which means, if And I’m-a, like, “Can’t you just look at face this.” So I stick it under the shell of you do-a the math,I’m-a forty years old. my back like-a normal?”And he’s-a,like, a passing beetle and give him a kick, and “No,because I’m-a starting to think there he slides across the bricks, just skidding I wasn’t-a really thinking about it much might-a be underlying problems.” So off into oblivion. until last summer. Just another birthday, I’m-a in this tiny room for hours, doing right? Then it’s-a like the reality of the all kinds of tests that I’ve-a never done So then I check-a my phone and thing just hit me. Like, “Mamma mia, before,and finally Dr.Mario comes back there’s-a, like, twenty missed calls from I’m-a going to be middle-aged.” It’s-a holding some X-rays, and he says that, the Princess. And I just sigh, like, “Here like one of those fireballs that moves-a between the jumping and the running we go.” And I call her back and she’s-a, so slowly you forget it’s even coming, and the smashing the bricks with my like, “Who’s calling?” And I’m-a, like, until it’s-a right in your face. head,I’ve-a basically given myself arthri- “It’s-a me, Mario. Who the hell else tis. So I ask for a cortisone shot, and would it be?”And she’s-a,like,“I’m sorry. The thing that’s so hard about turn- he’s-a, like,“It’s-a too soon since the last I guess I didn’t know if you were going ing forty is it forces you to take-a stock one.” And I’m-a, like, “Come on, it’s-a to call me back or not, because lately it’s of how you’re doing. And, to be honest, me, Mario.” So he sighs and gives me like you’re not even a part of my life.” I’m-a not doing so great. These days, one, right in the spine, and it’s-a, like, And then she just starts-a going off on my life, it’s-a fucked up. Like, there’s literally the most painful experience of me for being out of touch all day, and just a lot of super-heavy shit that I’m-a when I tell her I was at the doctor she dealing with right now. I guess the best accuses me of lying to her, because at this point in our relationship there’s-a, like, zero trust. And I’m about to hang up, when she tells me she’s-a been kid- napped by a Koopa. And I know I’m-a not supposed to say this, but lately I’ve started to think she’s been getting kidnapped by Koopas on purpose. The first few times it hap- pened, I was-a, like,“O.K., that’s a weird coincidence.”But then it happened again, and again, and, like, literally thousands more times. And recently I said to her, “If you know that the Koopas are after the Princess, why do you walk around wearing a crown?”And she was,like,“Oh, so you’re saying I was asking for it? Be- cause of the way that I was dressed?” And I was, like,“You know what? If you want to get-a me cancelled, go ahead!” Be- cause, honestly, sometimes I fantasize about that shit, since it would give me an excuse to stop. I wouldn’t even do an apology, I’d-a just go off the grid, like 26 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

Zelda after that N-word thing, because named after him.But still,when you’ve-a lighted your experience with plumbing.” at this point I’m-a so goddam tired, I’d known someone forever, and he’s always And Luigi rattles off the dates of my last just be, like, “Great, I’m out! Wahoo! just-a smiling and laughing and, like, plumbing job, and Kwame types them Yiiiiippeee!” You know? Like, fuck it. making little cooing sounds, you never in,and then he’s-a,like,“We need a strat- think, This guy’s-a fucking me. egy for how to explain the gap.” And So anyway, she texts-a me the ad- I’m-a, like,“What gap?”And he’s-a, like, dress of this castle she’s trapped in, and So anyway, the Princess is-a waiting “You know, this multi-decade period it’s-a, like, seven worlds away, with doz- for me, and I can’t-a do shit until I get where you were out of the workforce.” ens of levels in between,plus mini games. this spine belt, and that means there’s-a And I’m-a, like, “It’s not like I was just And my back, it’s-a already starting to only one move I can make. I’ve-a got no sitting on a cloud all day. I was-a travel- tingle, which means the cortisone’s-a choice but to take the bus out to the sub- ling from world to world, going on wearing off. I have at most, like, two urbs and go see my brother. quests.” And he’s-a, like, “Right, but a days of mobility left before it’s like I’m-a plumbing executive won’t necessarily in- basically going to be paralyzed. And so So, look, here’s-a the deal with Luigi. terpret it that way.” And he writes up I tell her, you know, “I’m-a sorry, but I I’m-a glad he got sober, because, you this cover letter that’s-a designed to turn can’t save you this time. Even jacked up know, he was-a going to die. And now “the negative into a positive”: on stars and hauling ass, there’s-a no he does four hours of yoga every day,and way I can make it.” he and his husband,Kwame,they seem-a Dear prospective employer, genuinely happy, and I’m-a happy for I am writing to apply for the position So she’s-a,like,“Guess I’ll call Devon.” them. It’s-a great.Wahoo, yippee. At the of journeyman plumber at your company And Devon,he’s-a this d.j.who’s,like, same time, I’m-a not going to pretend or business. Plumbing is a lifelong passion twenty-two at most, and he’s-a got that like it’s a blast hanging out with them of mine. After beginning my career in New whole Machine Gun Kelly look, like and all their dogs. York City, I took a multiyear hiatus to the super tall and thin, with the face tattoos. Mushroom Kingdom in order to improve And I don’t even think she’s-a actually So I walk up to their fancy gate and my knowledge of pipes. Now I am ready into this guy, but it doesn’t matter. Be- ring the stupid intercom and say,“It’s-a to jump back in the game and pick up where cause it’s-a like she has this power over me, Mario.”And Kwame’s, like,“Mario, I left off. I am confident that I am the right me, like, when she wants to hurt me, she what a pleasant surprise!” And this guy, person to help you achieve success. can hurt-a me. Still, after all these years. he’s-a nice, but he’s-a more boring than Sincerely, So I say, “Hey, come on, baby. Relax. World 1,Level 1,on Easy.He reads self- Mario Mario It’s-a me, Mario.” And her voice gets help business books for fun, and I’ve-a soft, and she asks if I’m-a coming to save known him for three years and I still And Luigi’s, like,“Wow, that’s-a per- her or not. And I say, “Of course. Just have no clue what he does. But I guess fect!” And I’m-a just reading it over and wait on your floating block over the fire. that he’s-a loaded, because Luigi is es- over again, like, Really? All my adven- I’ll-a think of something.” sentially a professional sunbather now, tures, the entirety of my adult life, it all So that night I’m-a frantically search- and their driveway, it’s-a, like, Tesla, boils down to a “hiatus”? And it feels ing through these message boards about Tesla, Tesla. like I’ve walked into a spike and gone back pain, and I see there’s this miracle from big to small,and all the mushrooms device from Europe that’s, like, an elec- So they buzz me in and I tell-a them in the world can’t make me big again. tronic belt that takes-a all the pressure my whole fucked-up situation—how the off your spine. And I make some calls, Princess is-a trapped, and I need to buy And by this point the Princess,she’s-a and there’s a guy downtown who’s got this spine belt,but I’ve-a got no money— texting me non-stop, like, “Where. The. one of these things, but it’s-a going to and they say they’re-a going to help me. Fuck. Are you.”So I turn to Luigi and say, cost ten thousand dollars.And I’ve-a got, And I’m-a super relieved. But, instead “Listen, I really appreciate all this great like, five coins in my checking account. of writing me a check, Kwame says, life advice, but today the main thing is And I know what you’re-a thinking: “Mario, are you familiar with the con- I need-a to borrow some money, so I can “How does Super Mario go broke? You cept of a career pivot?” And I’m-a, like, buy this spine belt and save the Princess collected entire rooms of coins! What hap- “What?” And he hands-a me this book from the Koopa.”And there’s-a this long pened?” And the answer is-a simple: I called “What Color Is Your Parachute?” silence, and eventually Kwame squeezes trusted a close personal friend to man- And then he’s-a, like, “Hey, you know Luigi’s hand, and Luigi takes a deep age-a my money.And I can’t say too much what might be fun? If we made you a breath, and I’m-a just rolling my eyes, about what happened, because the law- new résumé right now!”And Luigi gives like, “Here we go.” And Luigi takes off suit is-a ongoing,but essentially,all those me a big thumbs-up, like I’ve-a just won his hat and launches into this speech, years I thought that I was riding Yoshi, a fucking extra life. which is obviously super rehearsed. And it was the other way around. That dino- he’s-a, like,“Mario, we want to help you, saur, he was-a fucking me from moment So Kwame takes out his laptop, and but we don’t-a think we’ve-a been help- one. And I know I deserve-a some of the he’s-a, like, “O.K., what would you say ing you in the right way. And that’s-a blame for not catching on, because by is your most marketable skill?”And I’ve-a why, for your sake and ours, we have-a the end he had his own island, and sa- got no choice but to play along, because decided to put up some financial bound- fari, and there was even Yoshi’s World. I I still have to hit them up for money. So aries.” And that’s-a when I kind of lose mean,this guy had his own private world, I’m-a, like, “I don’t know, I guess fight- ing Koopas?” And Kwame’s, like, “We could focus on your combat skills. But I think it might widen the net if we high- THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 27

my cool and start running around shoot- minute, who is this?”And he says,“It’s-a ter of time before the whole list ran- ing fireballs. And Luigi’s, like, “Mario, me, Wario,” and it turns out the whole domly resets for no reason. don’t-a do this.”But I’m-a so angry now, thing was a scam. And it’s-a basically it’s-a like I’m just in battle mode. And the emotional low point of my entire life. And then I started to think about my Luigi runs at me,and I shoot him a look, I’m-a just crying on the sidewalk, you relationship with the Princess. Did I re- like, “Let’s-a go!” But even though I can know? Like, Game Over. ally want to be with her? Or was her love usually take him,my back,it’s-a so messed just another form of points? Another up that he manages to jump on my head, And just when things-a can’t get any currency for me to amass to prove-a to which makes me motionless. And these worse I see something skidding toward myself that I had worth, and that, de- giant block letters appear over our heads, me. And I realize it’s-a the beetle that I spite my immigrant background and saying,“LUIGI WIN!”And he’s,like,“I’m-a kicked outside of Dr.Mario’s the day be- high-pitched voice and learning differ- sorry,Mario.”And I’m-a,like,“Fuck you.” fore. It must’ve bounced off a pipe or a ences,I was-a still deserving of love? I’d-a brick, and now, instead of sliding away been with the Princess for decades, but And as I’m-a hobbling out of their from me, it’s-a sliding right at me. And it’s not like we’d-a ever actually con- dumb gate I pass-a this pile of Amazon this thing’s-a getting closer and closer, nected. I barely even saw her, except for packages. And I can tell it’s all nice stuff, and I’m-a getting ready to jump over it, a few seconds after each rescue,and even like P-Wings and POW blocks, and I re- when all of a sudden time pauses. You then it’s-a not like we had deep conver- member how Amazon,they’ve-a got this know how that happens sometimes? Like, sations—we just stood next to each other, policy where if something goes missing you’ll be jumping or flying,and then,out staring straight ahead, while some text they just reimburse you, no questions of nowhere, everything in the world will scrolled anticlimactically over our heads, asked. And I’m-a thinking, you know, Is freeze? Not seeing a lot of nods. Well, followed by Japanese names. it really a crime if nobody gets hurt? So anyway, time pauses for me in this mo- I grab a few packages,and as I’m-a walk- ment,and all these thoughts start-a swirl- And as I’m-a having this realization ing to the bus stop I hear-a this voice in ing through my head. the world unpauses and the beetle con- my head, like, “You-a just robbed your tinues sliding toward me. And, instead own brother.”But at this point it’s-a like And the first is this memory of the of jumping over it, I decide to jump on I’m just on autopilot, almost like I’m-a last quest I went on with Luigi. It was top of it,which makes it motionless.And being controlled by someone else. (And after he got out of rehab, but before he I reach under its orange turtle shell, pull obviously I know that sounds-a crazy, and Kwame started dating, although I out Dr. Mario’s card, and call-a his per- but that’s-a how I’m feeling.) think they were-a maybe hooking up sonal number and say,“It’s-a me, Mario, by then. So anyway, we were-a swim- and I need help.” So anyway, I pawn all this crap and ming underwater, dodging jellyfish, and call-a the guy who’s got the spine belt. I notice he’s-a kind of hanging back. So And within thirty minutes I’m-a in And he’s-a,like,“It’s yours for 20K.”And I’m-a, like, “Let’s-a go!” And Luigi says, his office signing consent forms for “an- I’m-a, like, “Hey, you said ten!” And he “What’s-a the hurry?” And I’m-a, like, terial lumbar fusion.” And he’s-a, like, just laughs, because I guess he can hear “What are you talking about? We’re-a “You’re going to need someone to wash the desperation in my voice.So I tell him being timed, and the faster we go the your body and help-a you use-a the the truth, which is that I’ve only got fif- more points we get.” And he’s-a, like, bathroom, because for the first twelve teen, and he says he’ll take it, but for weeks of recovery you’re-a going to have some reason I have to throw in some “Yeah, but what are the points for?”And zero mobility. Do you have-a a partner garlic. And I’m-a, like, “Huh, that’s-a at the time I just laughed,like,you know, who can help you?” And by now the weird.”But, honestly, at this point, I’m-a That’s-a just Luigi being silly. Princess has straight-up blocked my not even thinking straight, because I’m number,and I guess she did end up call- in so much pain. And I know I’ve-a de- But now, as I’m-a standing paused ing Devon, because she’s-a posting all scribed how much my back hurts, like a before this beetle,this thing he said comes these pictures of him on social media, few different times already, and I don’t rushing back to me.“What are the points tagged, like, #realhero and #waybetter- want to get repetitive, but the cortisone for?” And I realize that he’s-a kind of thanmario.So I’m-a,like,“Is there some shot has almost completely worn off,and right. Because the truth is, the points, kind of sponge on a stick that I can use there’s-a,like,starting to be this new pain they don’t-a really get you anything.You to clean my ass?”And Dr. Mario, he’s-a that’s deep inside my balls. And it’s-a can’t-a trade them in for prizes. Best- walking me through the different stick terrifying, because this pain, it’s-a some- case scenario, your tally ends up on a options when Luigi jumps through the thing I’ve never experienced before.And high-score list, next to a word like “PEE” window. And then Kwame comes in a it makes me feel-a truly panicked. Be- or “DIC,” and even then it’s only a mat- second later, through the door (because cause it’s-a like, you know, what the fuck he took-a the elevator). is this now? And it turns out someone from So I PayPal-a this guy all the money, Dr. Mario’s office called them up, be- and send him some garlic on Postmates. cause they were-a listed as my emer- And after it goes through I ask where I gency contacts. And they tell Dr. Mario should meet him to pick up my belt.And that they’re-a going to help me recuper- he just laughs again, even louder than ate, and they’ve already converted Lui- before. And finally I’m-a, like, “Wait a gi’s solarium into my recovery room.And I’m-a feeling super guilty because there’s 28 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

no way they’d-a make this kind of offer miracle he was able to say a name at all. BE A if they knew that I’d-a stolen from them. And I was-a doing the math with FORCE And so I start to confess about the Am- FOR GOOD azon boxes, and Luigi says, “Mario, we Luigi, and it turns out that the day I’m-a know. We saw you pick them up and scheduled to be discharged from the hos- Your name can live on shout ‘Wahoo.’That’s-a why we’re here. pital happens to be my forty-first birth- as champion of the We didn’t-a realize how desperate things day. And I joked to him,“I should throw causes, communities, had gotten, and how much pain you’ve a party.” But then once I’d-a said it I re- and places dear to been in. And we’re-a sorry about the ré- alized,“Wait a minute,that’s exactly what you...for generations sumé thing before.We both realized even I should-a do.” And so we’re-a really to come. as we were-a doing it that it was a ter- going to do it, a party in my recovery rible idea,and from now on we’re-a going room,and I’m-a inviting everyone I know, Kickstart your charitable legacy to try to be less prescriptive,and the main including Dr. Mario and even the Prin- with NYC’s community foundation. thing is we love you, and we’re-a with cess and Devon,because why not? I mean, [email protected] you for the long haul, no matter what it I don’t expect them to come, but even if (212) 686-0010 x363 takes.” And Kwame’s, like, “We mean it. they did I think I’d-a be cool with it. We want you to stay with us until you’re When we got together, we were super back on your feet.” And I’m-a looking young, and everything was at least as up at these guys,and I don’t-a know what much my fault as hers. And I don’t think to say, because I’ve-a been playing the we’ll ever be the kind of exes who go out game for forty years, but this is the first for lunch or whatever, but when all’s said time that it’s-a me who’s being rescued. and done I’m-a genuinely rooting for her happiness. So now it’s-a the night before the sur- gery, and I’m-a fasting at Luigi and And I was-a going through the hos- Kwame’s,and it’s-a gonna be a long time pital checklist with Luigi,like do we have before I can jump or even walk. And the slippers and sweaters, and “Lilyhammer” truth is, I’m-a never going to be “super downloaded on the iPad, and I started Mario”again.When I come out the other to feel a familiar sensation. And I real- side of this, I’m-a going to just be plain, ized that it was the way I used to feel regular Mario, a middle-aged guy with between levels. Tomorrow at 5:30 A.M. a slight limp. (I know), Dr. Mario’s going to hit me with that gas mask,and it’ll be like going But I’ve also been starting to think through a pipe from one world to an- that maybe getting older’s not all bad. other. And maybe I’ll have to learn some Like, for example, this is a little embar- new moves once I get there,but so what? rassing to admit,but my whole life I’ve-a I’m-a ready for the challenge. Like, for struggled with body stuff, like things example, I really want to do a podcast, about my weight and how I look-a naked. and this morning I pitched the idea to It’s-a why I wear the overalls even when Luigi and Kwame, and they said they it makes no sense for what I’m doing. would help me, and we even came up But now that I’m-a in my forties I don’t with a name for it (“The Next Level really think about my body anymore,and with Mario”).And Luigi’s going to read-a when I do it’s-a to focus on the parts the commercials, and Kwame’s-a going that I’m-a proud of, like my thick mus- to be my first guest, because it turns out tache and my big strong ass. And, hon- his job is actually pretty interesting,it’s-a estly, I can’t tell you how liberating it is this thing involving currency prices, I just to allow myself to feel-a sexy. Like, think, or something about bonds. Any- why can’t a short fat guy be sexy? I feel-a way, we’re-a going to be talking about it sexy, and I’m not afraid to say I feel-a for two hours. And maybe we’ll-a get a sexy. Like, hey, it’s-a me, Mario, and I’ve lot of listeners, but even if we don’t it’ll got a big, strong, super-hairy ass and still be a learning experience. I’m-a sexy. Deal-a with it. These past forty years, I’ve-a had all I’ve-a also noticed that the older I kinds of ups and downs. I’ve-a won and get, the less angry I am at my dad. I lost, flown and fallen, jumped and been mean, it’s-a weird he named me Mario jumped on. I’m-a covered in scars and when his last name was-a Mario, so soon I’ll have some more. But I’m-a not that my name’s-a Mario Mario. But he scared. I’m-a ready. Someday, I’ll-a run was a really serious alcoholic, like, red out of continues, but in the meantime wine for breakfast, so it’s-a kind of a I’ve-a got plenty of lives left. Here we go . . . 

OUR LOCAL CORRESPONDENTS “Pop,” as just about every listener would have known, was Pop Smoke, TOUGH BUSINESS an ally and friend of Fivio who was ap- proaching mainstream stardom when The rapper Fivio Foreign survived a gang war. Can he go mainstream? he was murdered, in February, 2020; his first album, released posthumously, BY KELEFA SANNEH made its début at No. 1 on the Billboard chart. Pop Smoke was about a decade Fivio says, “I don’t miss nothing from my old life,” but it still permeates his lyrics. younger than Fivio Foreign, who just turned thirty-two. But he got famous “This is what New York City feel eos. Now he is emerging as the kind first, and took a fraternal interest in like and sound like,” Funkmas- of reliable hip-hop star that New York, Fivio’s career: he tried, unsuccessfully, ter Flex exclaimed, one recent night not too long ago, seemed to have to get the label that signed him to sign on Hot 27. For thirty years, Flex has stopped producing. Fivio, too, and when he travelled to the been New York’s most prominent hip- Hot 27 studios for an interview, in 2012, hop radio d.j., tasked with figuring out “City of Gods”had a chorus by Ali- he included Fivio in his entourage. what might be popular and then tell- cia Keys,singing,“New York City,please ing people what should be popular— go easy on this heart of mine.” It had Nowadays, it is Fivio who has an en- turning audience research into a series a newsworthy verse, in which Ye, for- tourage, and one evening this spring he of definitive statements, delivered so merly known as Kanye West, threat- paid a visit to Funkmaster Flex with a volubly and so frequently that he some- ened the “Saturday Night Live” star few friends in tow.Flex was prerecording times drowns out the music. On this Pete Davidson, who was dating his ex, segments in a nondescript Chelsea of- night, Flex was drowning out a new Kim Kardashian: “This afternoon / A fice building; Fivio and friends were track, “City of Gods,” which seemed hundred goons / Pulling up to ‘S.N.L.’” shown to a rather desolate hospitality sure to become a local favorite. “Fivio, Most important, it had Fivio Foreign, room, which was full of Cîroc vodka I see you,” Flex said, calling out the who staged a self-coronation in the decorations yet surprisingly bereft of rapper behind the track. A few years track’s opening lines: the product itself. Someone procured a ago, Fivio Foreign was just one more bottle of champagne, but Fivio was not guy from Brooklyn mean-mugging into Nigga, this my shit particularly interested—he prides him- the camera in a bunch of YouTube vid- Welcome to the city of gods self on professionalism, and, although Pop was the king of New York he has rapped enthusiastically about in- Now I’m the nigga in charge. toxicants ranging from Hennessy to Per- cocet, he says that he is more focussed on success these days. The spelling of “Fivio” is slightly misleading: the name derives from an old nickname, Fabio, bestowed by a friend who noticed that women found him charming, and so it is pronounced “Favio,” though people who know him tend to drop the last letter or two. He is more than six feet tall and lanky, and he was wearing a red nylon windbreaker by the French fashion house Celine, with matching jeans, and enough jew- elry to make it clear which of the guys milling around was the star. Funkmas- ter Flex greeted him with a friendly scowl and then, before the interview began, delivered a brief update on “City of Gods.” “It’s picking up in the club,” Flex said, conspiratorially, as if he were shar- ing classified information. “That’s what we need,” Fivio re- plied. “We need that club.” Fivio’s music can sound as if it were purpose-built for club sound systems: it is up-tempo, with tricky drum pro- gramming, bass lines that zoom unpre- 30 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 PHOTOGRAPH BY LELANIE FOSTER

dictably from note to note, and plenty gas always talking about what’s going cident last year in New Jersey, when he of shouted interjections. But Fivio’s on in the hood, or what they’re going was approached by police and fled. He form of hip-hop is less closely associ- through in their life,” Fivio told Flex, was caught and, after a scuffle, arrested; ated with clubs than with the streets of when asked about the summit.“That’s police found a loaded gun with a de- Brooklyn, where he shot a number of what’s gon’ happen, regardless.” faced serial number. But he says that he his early videos, and with YouTube, has learned the importance of staying where those videos often went viral. In recent years, many hip-hop hits out of trouble: for someone like him, (“Viral” is one of his favorite words.) have been druggy and escapist. (In that means hiring professional security The style that made Fivio a star is the chorus of “Lemonade,” one of the guards and steering clear of Brooklyn. known as drill music, which even more most popular tracks of 2020, the rap- “I don’t miss nothing from my old life,” than other forms of hip-hop has been per and singer Don Toliver howled he told me. But he can’t afford to stop linked to gangs and violence.Pop Smoke about getting high and buying a con- rapping about it—not yet. and Fivio Foreign were on the same vertible: “Off the juice, codeine got me side in a kind of civil war that turned trippin’/ Copped the coupe—woke up, “Iwas raised the right way,”Fivio says. the dizzying patchwork of Brooklyn roof is missin’.”) Fivio belongs to a less He grew up, as Maxie Ryles III, in street gangs into a murderously simple fanciful tradition, and his success may a neighborhood known as the Nine: a rivalry between two confederations.Pop mean that the hip-hop pendulum is slanted rectangle of blocks (including Smoke’s killing was apparently unre- swinging back, as it periodically does, Ninety-first through Ninety-sixth lated to this war; he was the victim of toward tougher, scrappier characters. In Streets) affixed to the northeast corner a botched robbery during a trip to Los hip-hop, street credibility can be an im- of East Flatbush, dotted with Carib- Angeles. (It seems that the invaders portant narrative asset—a way of con- bean storefronts and neat little apart- found Pop by zooming in on an ad- vincing listeners that the stories they’re ment buildings that are worth signifi- dress label in a video that he posted, hearing aren’t just stories. cantly more now than they were when showing off a delivery from Amiri, Fivio was a boy. His father was a mil- which sells expensive jeans that are Like any successful rapper, though, itary veteran who remained married to popular among New York rappers.) But Fivio is using hip-hop not just to chron- his mother, a special-education aide, his career was tightly connected to the icle his surroundings but also to change until her death, from a stroke, in 2016, war: the first Pop Smoke mixtape was them. He has moved, with his three which Fivio describes as the defining called “Meet the Woo”—a reference to children, to an undisclosed location on tragedy of his life. Despite his stable one of the two confederations. Simi- the far side of the Hudson River, and upbringing, he was intrigued by high- larly, Fivio’s breakthrough track was his rhymes have grown a bit less blood- school classmates who disappeared for “Blixky Inna Box.” A “blicky” is a gun, thirsty and a lot more ruminative. Ear- long stretches and then reappeared with but “Blixky”—the “x” is silent—is the lier this month, he released his first better clothes than he could afford.And name of a crew that was on the other proper album, “B.I.B.L.E.,” for which so he disappeared, too. (He eventually side of the divide; the track functioned Ye served as the executive producer, and earned his diploma through a summer as an extended provocation. which aims to convert listeners who do program.) “I was outside,”he says.“Mak- not spend their free time trying to de- ing some money here and there.”As he Earlier this year, a pair of high- code the intricacies of New York gang remembers it, gang membership liter- profile shootings focussed political at- alliances. Pop Smoke was a gnomic fig- ally came with the territory. “It was no tention on this world. In January, a rap- ure with a rich, booming voice; Fivio question of affiliation,” he says. “You’re per named Nas Blixky survived being is less enigmatic but more entertain- from here? This is what it is.” shot in the Brooklyn neighborhood of ing, a charismatic and sometimes witty Prospect-Lefferts Gardens. The next host who wants to keep everyone happy. When Fivio says that he avoids week,TDott Woo, who was known for “This shit sound like growth,” he ex- Brooklyn,he means the Brooklyn where his dance moves in videos by Pop claims,near the beginning of the album, he grew up; he had no problem travel- Smoke and Fivio Foreign, was killed which strikes an effective balance be- ling, with his security detail, to an Epis- in Canarsie. Soon afterward, Mayor tween thoughtfulness and recklessness. copal church in Park Slope, six con- Eric Adams held a press conference in “Don’t mistake me for a different nigga,” sequential stops on the 3 train from his which he called drill music “alarming,” he raps. “If I tell ’em to work, they’ll old neighborhood.His record label,Co- and suggested that certain violent music clip a nigga / If I take me a Perc, I’ll for- lumbia, had rented the church to shoot videos be removed from social media get the nigga.” a promotional video for “B.I.B.L.E.” in the name of public safety, much as (Fivio’s family was Pentecostal, but he President Donald Trump had been re- Twice in the past two years, Fivio’s says that his album is Biblical only in- moved from Twitter. Adams convened rise has been interrupted by allegations sofar as it offers stories—ostensibly true a summit with a number of the city’s of criminal behavior. In 2020, he was ones—that listeners can learn from.) leading rappers, including Fivio, who arrested for assault, after an altercation At a long table in the sacristy, he posed sat at the Mayor’s right elbow, and who with a woman he was dating, who was with a chalice of cranberry juice, and apparently made no promises—he is pregnant with his third child. She later then, after changing into Gucci track obligated, he says, to do no more and announced that she didn’t want Fivio pants and a matching shirt, he found no less than talk about his life. “Nig- to be prosecuted, and he claimed that a place in the dusty church kitchen, the encounter was merely a loud argu- ment. He still faces charges for an in- THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 31

where he was supplied with a legal pad hip-hop forebears, none more impor- nothing to lose: “Playing both sides, and a pencil. Fivio adopted a thought- tant than the Notorious B.I.G. and shit that I don’t like / Wartime, spark ful expression and, for the benefit of Jay-Z, who enacted their own succes- broad day, all night.” The track was the cameras, did something he almost sion drama a quarter of a century ago. claustrophobic, but pleasurably so, and never does: he wrote down some of his They were both from Bedford-Stuyve- it became a sensation: Kanye West or- lyrics. “I ain’t even realize I was in sant, friends and friendly rivals. After ganized a remix, and major labels Brooklyn,” he said later. the 1997 murder of B.I.G., who was signed Keef and several other Chicago one of the most beloved rappers in rappers. Something about the music When the shoot was over, Fivio’s New York’s history, Jay-Z replaced him captured the attention, too, of young ride—an S.U.V. with L.E.D. lights in as the biggest name in town, rapping, people around the world. In the South the ceiling, which fans may recognize “I’m the focal point, like Biggie in his London neighborhood of Brixton Hill, from his Instagram videos—was wait- prime / On the low, though—shhh!— a crew of rappers called 67 began mak- ing outside, and he moved quickly to the city is mine.” ing low-budget drill videos of their get in. Not quickly enough, though, own, livening up the Chicago tem- to escape the attention of a woman in By the time Fivio got serious about plate with skippy rhythms and sliding the next car, with multicolored finger- rapping, in the twenty-tens, Atlanta bass lines. nails and an embarrassed smile. “I love was establishing itself as the new hip- you, Fivio,” she told him. hop capital, and New York rappers The pioneers of Brooklyn drill sometimes struggled to keep pace with tended not to be scholars of British As she recorded on her phone, Fivio Southern styles. New York’s hip-hop musical history: by all accounts, they leaned in through the window and asked renaissance began, indirectly, in Chi- typed “drill beats” into YouTube and her favorite song. cago, where a generation of teen-age rapped over whatever they found. A performers created a startlingly unfil- producer known as AXL was a teen- “Right now, it gotta be ‘Self Made,’” tered subgenre that came to be known ager in London when he noticed that she said, naming a track that has more as drill music. Chief Keef was only six- Brooklynites were using the work he than ten million views on YouTube but teen when he released, in 2012, a trans- posted, and sometimes drawing digi- has never been released to streaming fixing video for a track called “I Don’t tal crowds. “It was a shock,” AXL told services, let alone radio stations. Like.” Keef and his friends crowded me. “I’m all the way in London, and into an unfurnished apartment, wav- they’re hopping on my beats!”Some of “Boom!” Fivio said, firing an imag- ing guns in time to an ominous, chim- the rappers had no idea that AXL was inary gun at the phone.“Good choice.” ing beat fit for a funeral procession. British until they called to invite him Chief Keef reeled off threats and com- to the studio. Once Fivio had left,the woman began plaints, sounding like a teen-ager with to cry. “Oh, shit,” she said, covering her One drill convert was a boyish, ver- mouth with her hand and still record- bose Flatbush rapper named 22Gz,who ing.“Where the fuck he just came from?” turned one of AXL’s compositions into an incendiary track called “Suburban.” Fivio Foreign has many Brooklyn The title described not 22Gz’s surround- ings but, rather, his preferred getaway “Under my credit score, it merely says ‘credit participation trophy.’” vehicle: “Pull up in all-black Subur- bans/If he ain’t dead,we reversin’/Blixky gang, know we gon’ murk him.” Fivio, too, began using beats by AXL and other British drill producers. He had been rapping for a few years, releasing rather generic home-town hip-hop, to little notice, but the new beats made him sound somehow both more serious and more playful. AXL, working from across the Atlantic, has since produced some of Fivio’s best-known records. Brooklyn drill, like hip-hop itself, was often mistaken for a passing fad, and some of the rough-and-tumble Brooklyn rappers who proliferated in the twenty-tens sought to assure lis- teners that they weren’t merely drill rappers. Pop Smoke took the opposite approach: encouraged by Steven Vic- tor, the executive who signed him, he released two mixtapes filled with beats

by 808 Melo, another U.K. drill pro- probably unaware that in 1993, shortly ducer, intending to make himself the before the release of his début album, face of the movement before branch- he was arrested for the murder of a ing out. Pop Smoke did not live long man reputed to be a member of a rival enough to see this plan to completion, gang. (He was later acquitted.) Snoop’s but Fivio has adopted a similar strat- rhymes, full of sex and violence, in- egy, becoming the obvious choice for spired broad condemnation; C. De- musicians seeking an infusion of drill Lores Tucker, a civil-rights advocate, energy. He appears on recent releases became a news fixture for leading pro- by Drake and Mary J. Blige, and on a tests against him and other objection- current single by Nicki Minaj, who did more than able rappers. But his anyone else to boost New threats were generally of York hip-hop during the the vague, “don’t make me fallow years. After Ye heard have to grab my strap” va- some Fivio tracks that he riety, and in those early liked, he texted Fivio to years he alluded only see if he could call, and obliquely to his affiliation then started rapping over with a local Crip gang. the phone, asking Fivio his opinion. Fivio wasn’t sure The drill generation what to think, but Ye fol- tended to be more forth- lowed up by sending a jet to bring him right, partly because social to Mercedes-Benz Stadium, in At- media enabled rappers to lanta, where he was finishing his 2021 communicate more directly with both album, “Donda.” (The resulting col- their allies and their enemies, whom laboration, “Off the Grid,” was one of they refer to as “opps.” Not long after the album’s highlights.) Fivio is con- “I Don’t Like” was released, a rapper vinced, not unreasonably, that the fear- named Lil JoJo posted a track insult- some sound of drill is more versatile ing Chief Keef ’s crew. A few months than people think it is: his new album later, he was shot to death, and a sar- includes a lighthearted drill love song castic eulogy was posted on Keef ’s based on a snippet of “Say My Name,” Twitter: “Its Sad Cuz Dat Nigga Jojo by Destiny’s Child. Instead of leaving Wanted To Be Jus Like Us #LMAO.” drill behind on his journey toward (Keef later claimed that he had been mainstream success, Fivio is trying to hacked, and no one has been charged take it with him. in JoJo’s death.) In the years that fol- lowed, something like a dozen Chi- Drill, in the hip-hop sense, is not cago drill rappers were killed, a figure just a genre name but also a verb. that reflected both the astonishing “Since a young’un, I been drillin’,” Pop level of violence on the city’s streets Smoke announced, in “Welcome to the and the democratizing nature of the Party,” the 2019 track that made him a music—it sometimes seemed as if every star, and you could almost picture him streetwise young person in Chicago wielding his weapon like a power tool. were a rapper. A close association with violence has Fivio says that he wasn’t in a partic- always been part of drill music’s appeal: ularly angry frame of mind when he re- like the so-called gangsta rappers of the corded “Blixky Inna Box.” He was just nineteen-nineties,these performers offer following the traditional logic of hip- listeners the thrill of immersion in a hop. “They”—the Blixkys—“was diss- violent world, without promising to ing the hood, dissing people I know,”he make things better—and frequently said. So he responded the way any rap- promising to make things worse. per would: “twice as hard, twice as dis- respectful, twice as fire.”The video, shot It’s easy to forget how controver- by a drill auteur known as Flowtastic, sial gangsta rap once was. Snoop Dogg shows Fivio and his allies in a spartan is now widely regarded as a lovable building lobby and on an empty play- uncle, and many of the people who ground; there are no visible guns but enjoyed his whimsical Olympic-high- plenty of gang signs.The exuberant cho- lights show with Kevin Hart were rus puns on “Blixky,” pairing it with an- other synonym for a firearm:“Got a brand

new chop / That’s a Blixky inna box.” of the N-word, along with references at his arraignment in March, he is more There were other, overlapping gang to violence and drugs. This system is popular than ever. He recently collab- now so familiar that listeners barely orated with the borough’s biggest hip- identifiers.Some of Fivio’s enemies were seem to notice. The radio version of hop star, Cardi B, making her drill affiliated with the Gangster Disciples, “Big Drip,”one of Fivio’s biggest tracks, début—though she had to shoot the who originated in Chicago and spread features the line “Crip sh[obscured]/She music video without him. Earlier this nationwide, so Fivio identified himself wanna suck on a [obscured].” month, the Bronx District Attorney as “G.D.K.,” which stands for “Gang- indicted the rapper Lee Drilly and nine- ster Disciple killer.”And he mentioned, But it’s hard to imagine that this teen others, on charges linked to a se- offhandedly, that he and his confeder- sort of censorship makes much differ- ries of murders and assaults; the office ates were the “flyest Crips in the game, ence, especially since impressionable noted that the defendants were “prom- flag tied around the leg,” pointing to a young listeners have so many options inent in the Drill rap scene.” blue bandanna above his left knee. As besides terrestrial radio. Censoring rap- the video went viral, he thought that pers on social media, as Mayor Adams The pastor Louis Straker is a mem- he saw an uptick in the number of young suggested, would be difficult and con- ber of the 67th Precinct Clergy Coun- men in Brooklyn wearing the same troversial. After the killing of Fivio’s cil,also known as the God Squad,which bandanna in the same way. friend TDott Woo, a Brooklyn drill pi- aims to quell gun violence in East Flat- oneer named Rowdy Rebel vowed, in bush and the surrounding area. He is Fivio has mixed feelings about the a YouTube video,“I ain’t posting up no taken aback by what he calls the “spirit complicated role that gangs have played pictures of my bro TDott /’Til a body of lawlessness” in the neighborhood, in his life.His new album includes “Left drop—spin, go get your G-lock.” And and by the sanguinary music that it has Side,” a coded oath of allegiance to the 22Gz, who is on the other side of the produced, although he acknowledges Crips, recorded with the like-minded great divide, released a track in which that it is hard to establish correlation, Los Angeles rapper Blueface. But one he celebrated the death of an unnamed let alone causation. (According to po- day, sprawled on a couch in a Colum- foe: “Sniper Blixky, I’m a gremlin: get lice statistics, the precinct’s homicide bia Records conference room, sur- a rush, my opps die / He was dissin’ on rate is less than half of what it was in rounded by photographs of Billy Joel the dead—now he the one on Fox 5.” the early nineties, even as the city’s and Bruce Springsteen, he told me— But Fivio’s response has been notably total shootings have risen in the past using the kind of hypothetical language restrained, and he suggested that re- few years.) No doubt, anyone who loves favored by people with reason to avoid venge was not the best way to honor this music would happily give it up if unequivocal admissions—that the re- slain friends like TDott. He thought, that would end the killing. The trag- ality of gang life was often miserable. “What would my dog want me to do? edy of drill music is not that there is a “Somebody might get in a situation, How would my dog want me living?” market for it but that there is a con- and you don’t know nothing about it, text for it. In the meantime, perhaps it but you’ve got to deal with it,” he said. By the time the Mayor called his is possible to hear drill music as proof “It gives you no soul, almost. ’Cause summit, in February, Brooklyn drill of the stubborn persistence not just of you not fighting for nothing you be- had spawned a new variant: Bronx drill, violence but of poetry, too. A half cen- lieve in.”By the time “Blixky Inna Box” in which the stars were younger, the tury after hip-hop was born, young took off, in 2018, he had two daughters rapping shoutier, and the filmed prov- people in some of the country’s rough- and no fixed address, and he is aware est neighborhoods still feel moved to of the irony: the track that helped him ocations more brazen. One of the most write and deliver rhymes about what’s escape old neighborhood beefs also notorious figures is Kay Flock, eigh- on their minds. made his name synonymous with neigh- teen, who last summer released a thrill- borhood beefs. In the aftermath of the ing, raw-throated statement of purpose One of Fivio’s managers is Jerry killings earlier this year, a Hot 97 host called “Is Ya Ready” (twenty-four mil- Reefer, a well-connected guy who named DJ Drewski made an announce- lion views and counting). Kay Flock spent his boyhood in Trinidad and in ment on Instagram: “I will not support was also known for videos in which he Jamaica, and who didn’t realize the sig- or play anymore Diss/Gang records on drove into enemy territory, daring the nificance of his surname until he ar- the radio! We r losing too many young opps to confront him. He was arrested rived in Queens and people began to men and women to the streets!” He in December and charged with killing snicker. Reefer met Fivio through a later explained that he would continue a man after a brief altercation on the friend who was locked up with a friend to support drill music, just not tracks sidewalk, but, after pleading not guilty of Fivio’s, and he agreed to fund and in which rappers taunted their opps. guide Fivio’s career partly as a lark— hoping, he told me, to help Fivio earn This, more or less, is how the music a hundred thousand dollars.Now Reefer industry responded to gangsta rap some and his partner, known as Bless, are in thirty years ago. Radio stations, video charge of Fivio’s complicated evolution networks, and record labels adopted a from local celebrity to actual celebrity. system of soft censorship: guns were (A planned recent appearance at a strip blurred out of music videos, and soon club in Queens was cancelled, at the omitted altogether; “radio versions” of songs were stripped of curse words and 34 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

last minute, because police warned the • • club that Fivio might attract an un- manageable crowd.) gest drill success story is “To the Moon,” he can’t quite decide whether he wants a dreamy track by a previously unknown to celebrate his old life or disavow it: “What studio we going to?” Fivio British model turned rapper named asked Reefer one afternoon, as they set Jnr Choi. He found the beat online, Boy, I shoulda been careful off in the tweak his new album. and his creation gathered momentum But I ain’t really care to When Reefer named a place in New via TikTok, surpassing a hundred mil- I was young, dumb and unfearful Jersey, Fivio groaned. “I’m bigger than lion plays on Spotify before anyone Two, three drillers jumping in the vehicle that,” he said. really knew who he was. If the sirens loud enough, that scares you If you talking to that gun, it hears you Reefer just laughed.“You got kicked Fivio’s album, by contrast, leaves Tell him to shoot and he didn’t come near you out of every studio in Manhattan,” nothing to chance, being carefully di- You better do it, if them niggas dare you. he said. vided between tough-guy tracks and ladies’-man tracks. Describing one of At the studio,Fivio asked an engineer The driver punched an address into the more flirtatious efforts, he told me, to play a beat, and then, as a casual party his phone and took off, trailed by Fiv- “Bitches gon’ be getting dressed to this continued outside, he disappeared into io’s security detail.As the vehicle crossed song.”Fivio is not generally regarded as the unlit recording booth. Fivio doesn’t into New Jersey, Fivio seemed to relax a hip-hop virtuoso, but he has a fond- write his tracks so much as build them, slightly. He told the driver to stop at ness for good punch lines (as a boy, he coming up with couplets and adding them Target, where he led an expedition to loved watching rap battles) and an abil- to what he’s already got. Having spent the menswear section, in pursuit of a ity to keep the energy high without years developing his style, he finds that white thermal top that he felt would im- shouting,often rapping in cheerful dac- he can now crank out new lyrics effi- prove his outfit. One of his friends, a tyls. The first verse on “B.I.B.L.E.” be- ciently. “I’m a make them niggas hear rapper known as Ether da Connect, in- gins “Still got my bitches from back in and feel me,”he rapped.Then he matched spected a Tupac Shakur T-shirt. “Mad the day.”The primary theme is customer that plain line with a more ornate and dead people got merch in Target,”Ether service, with collaborations designed to unexpected one, alluding to a drug bust: observed. “You can’t be alive and get a gratify a wide variety of tastes, and he “Undercovers want to paraphernal’ me.” deal with them niggas!” even attempts to popularize a dubious He didn’t pause to celebrate. “Save that,” new pickup line: “Baby, you viral.” But he told the engineer. The beat stopped In the parking lot, Fivio was way- the secondary theme is regret, because for a second, and then resumed, so that laid by a couple of Nigerian American Fivio could think of the next rhyme.  doctors, who didn’t quite know who he was but knew that their kids would want a picture of him. Afterward, the group stopped at a Chinese restaurant and then a pizza restaurant,where Fivio tried with diminishing success to stick to a no-carb diet. In early interviews, Fivio seemed self-conscious about his advanced age. Asked how old he was when his mother died, he began a long nonanswer by saying,“What year is this now? 2020?” But his relative maturity surely enabled his rise to the top of the New York drill hierarchy, and he is known among fans for outworking the competition.(A comment posted below one of his recent tracks: “Fivio has defi- nitely gotten better.”) Fivio attended the Grammys this year, and he is about to embark on his first real tour, playing theatres. These are signs of success for a drill rapper, but not proof that he has conquered the music industry. The world of hip- hop can be frustratingly—or thrill- ingly—unpredictable. For all the star power of “City of Gods,” and despite a chorus, swiped from the pop duo the Chainsmokers, that seemed engineered for crossover appeal, the song has so far been only a modest hit.The year’s big- THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 35

A REPORTER AT LARGE THE SURVEILLANCE STATES As democratic governments worry about sophisticated hacking software, they increasingly rely on it. BY RONAN FARROW T he parliament of Catalonia, the ware to search for spyware designed tims are three members of the Euro- autonomous region in Spain,sits to operate invisibly. As they waited, pean Parliament, including Solé. Cat- on the edge of Barcelona’s Old Campo looked through the phone for alan politicians believe that the likely City, in the remains of a fortified citadel evidence of attacks that take varied forms: perpetrators of the hacking campaign constructed by King Philip V to moni- some arrive through WhatsApp or as are Spanish officials, and the Citizen tor the restive local population.The cit- S.M.S.messages that seem to come from Lab’s analysis suggests that the Span- adel was built with forced labor from known contacts; some require a click on ish government has used Pegasus. A hundreds of Catalans, and its remaining a link, and others operate with no action former NSO employee confirmed that structures and gardens are for many a from the user. Campo identified an ap- the company has an account in Spain. reminder of oppression.Today, a major- parent notification from the Spanish gov- (Government agencies did not respond ity of Catalan parliamentarians support ernment’s social-security agency which to requests for comment.) The results independence for the region, which the used the same format as links to mal- of the Citizen Lab’s investigation are Spanish government has deemed uncon- ware that the Citizen Lab had found on being disclosed for the first time in this stitutional.In 2012,as Catalonia prepared other phones. “With this message, we article. I spoke with more than forty of for a referendum on independence,Span- have the proof that at some point you the targeted individuals, and the con- ish police arrested at least twelve sepa- were attacked,”Campo explained. Soon, versations revealed an atmosphere of ratist politicians. On the day of the ref- Solé’s phone vibrated.“This phone tested paranoia and mistrust. Solé said,“That erendum, which received the support of positive,” the screen read. Campo told kind of surveillance in democratic coun- ninety per cent of voters despite low Solé,“There’s two confirmed infections,” tries and democratic states—I mean, turnout, police raids of polling stations from June, 2020.“In those days, your de- it’s unbelievable.” injured hundreds of civilians. Leaders of vice was infected—they took control of the independence movement, some of it and were on it probably for some hours. Commercial spyware has grown into whom live in exile across Europe, now Downloading, listening, recording.” an industry estimated to be worth meet in private and communicate through twelve billion dollars. It is largely un- encrypted messaging platforms. Solé’s phone had been infected with regulated and increasingly controver- Pegasus,a spyware technology designed sial. In recent years, investigations by One afternoon last month, Jordi by NSO Group, an Israeli firm, which the Citizen Lab and Amnesty Inter- Solé, a pro-independence member of can extract the contents of a phone, giv- national have revealed the presence of the European Parliament,met a digital- ing access to its texts and photographs, Pegasus on the phones of politicians, security researcher, Elies Campo, in or activate its camera and microphone activists, and dissidents under repres- one of the Catalan parliament’s ornate to provide real-time surveillance—ex- sive regimes. An analysis by Forensic chambers. Solé, who is forty-five and posing, say, confidential meetings. Peg- Architecture, a research group at the wore a loose-fitting suit, handed over asus is useful for law enforcement seek- University of London, has linked Peg- his cell phone, a silver iPhone 8 Plus. ing criminals, or for authoritarians asus to three hundred acts of physical He had been getting suspicious texts looking to quash dissent. Solé had been violence. It has been used to target and wanted to have the device analyzed. hacked in the weeks before he joined members of Rwanda’s opposition party Campo,a soft-spoken thirty-eight-year- the European Parliament, replacing a and journalists exposing corruption in old with tousled dark hair,was born and colleague who had been imprisoned for El Salvador. In Mexico, it appeared on raised in Catalonia and supports inde- pro-independence activities. “There’s the phones of several people close to pendence. He spent years working for been a clear political and judicial per- the reporter Javier Valdez Cárdenas, WhatsApp and Telegram in San Fran- secution of people and elected repre- who was murdered after investigating cisco, but recently moved home. “I feel sentatives,”Solé told me,“by using these drug cartels. Around the time that in a way it’s a kind of duty,”Campo told dirty things,these dirty methodologies.” Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi me. He now works as a fellow at the Arabia approved the murder of the Citizen Lab, a research group based at In Catalonia, more than sixty journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a longtime the University of Toronto that focusses phones—owned by Catalan politicians, critic, Pegasus was allegedly used to on high-tech human-rights abuses. lawyers,and activists in Spain and across monitor phones belonging to Khashog- Europe—have been targeted using Peg- gi’s associates, possibly facilitating the Campo collected records of Solé’s asus.This is the largest forensically doc- killing, in 2018. (Bin Salman has de- phone’s activity, including crashes it had umented cluster of such attacks and nied involvement, and NSO said, in a experienced, then ran specialized soft- infections on record. Among the vic- 36 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

NSO Group’s software has been linked to repressive regimes, but now “all types of governments” use it, an observer said. ILLUSTRATION BY TIMO LENZEN THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 37

would be so successful.” He paused. “And I never imagined that it would be so controversial.” “ Your résumé looks terrific, but I’m just not Hulio, who is forty, has a lumbering sure we can deal with the shedding.” gait and pudgy features. He typ- ically wears loose T-shirts and jeans, •• with his hair in a utilitarian buzz cut. Last month, I visited him at his duplex statement, “Our technology was not vestigations—NSO claims that Pega- in a luxury high-rise in Park Tzameret, associated in any way with the heinous sus is sold only to law-enforcement and the fanciest neighborhood in Tel Aviv. murder.”) Further reporting through a intelligence agencies—but also of the He lives with his three small children collaboration of news outlets known as illicit thrill of compromising technol- and his wife, Avital, who is expecting a the Pegasus Project has reinforced the ogy platforms. The company has been fourth.There’s a pool on the upper level links between NSO Group and anti- valued at more than a billion dollars. of Hulio’s apartment, and downstairs, democratic states. But there is evidence But now it is contending with debt, in the double-height living room, is a that Pegasus is being used in at least battling an array of corporate backers, custom arcade cabinet stocked with retro forty-five countries, and it and similar and, according to industry observers, games and bearing a cartoon portrait of tools have been purchased by law- faltering in its long-standing efforts to him, wearing shades, next to the word enforcement agencies in the United sell its products to U.S. law enforce- “Hulio” in large eight-bit font. Avital States and across Europe.Cristin Flynn ment, in part through an American attends to the children, frequent reno- Goodwin, a Microsoft executive who branch, Westbridge Technologies. It vations, and an ever-shifting array of has led the company’s efforts to fight also faces numerous lawsuits in many pets: rabbits remain, a parrot does not. spyware, told me,“The big, dirty secret countries, brought by Meta (formerly The family has a teacup poodle named is that governments are buying this Facebook), by Apple, and by individu- Marshmallow Rainbow Sprinkle. stuff—not just authoritarian govern- als who have been hacked by NSO.The ments but all types of governments.” company said in its statement that it Hulio, Omri Lavie, and Niv Karmi had been “targeted by a number of po- founded NSO Group in 2010, creating NSO Group is perhaps the most litically motivated advocacy organiza- its name from the first letters of their successful, controversial, and influential tions,many with well-known anti-Israel names and renting space in a converted firm in a generation of Israeli startups biases,”and added that “we have repeat- chicken coop on a kibbutz.The company that have made the country the center edly cooperated with governmental in- now has some eight hundred employees, of the spyware industry. I first inter- vestigations, where credible allegations and its technology has become a leading viewed Shalev Hulio, NSO Group’s merit, and have learned from each of tool of state-sponsored hacking, instru- C.E.O., in 2019, and since then I have these findings and reports,and improved mental in the fight among great powers. had access to NSO Group’s staff, of- the safeguards in our technologies.” fices, and technology. The company is Hulio told me,“I never imagined in my The Citizen Lab’s researchers con- in a state of contradiction and crisis. Its life that this company would be so fa- cluded that, on July 7, 2020, Pegasus was programmers speak with pride about mous. . . . I never imagined that we used to infect a device connected to the the use of their software in criminal in- network at 10 Downing Street, the of- fice of Boris Johnson, the Prime Minis- ter of the United Kingdom. A govern- ment official confirmed to me that the network was compromised,without spec- ifying the spyware used.“When we found the No. 10 case, my jaw dropped,” John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab, recalled. “We suspect this included the exfiltration of data,” Bill Marczak,another senior researcher there, added.The official told me that the Na- tional Cyber Security Centre, a branch of British intelligence, tested several phones at Downing Street, including Johnson’s. It was difficult to conduct a thorough search of phones—“It’s a bloody hard job,” the official said—and the agency was unable to locate the infected device. The nature of any data that may have been taken was never determined. The Citizen Lab suspects, based on 38 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

the servers to which the data were trans- Elsewhere in Europe, Pegasus has about the incident, the company “im- mitted, that the United Arab Emirates filled a need for law-enforcement agen- mediately shut down all the customers was likely behind the hack. “I’d thought cies that previously had limited cyber- potentially relevant to this case, due to that the U.S., U.K., and other top-tier intelligence capacity. “Almost all gov- the severity of the allegations, and even cyber powers were moving slowly on ernments in Europe are using our tools,” before we began the investigation.”The Pegasus because it wasn’t a direct threat Hulio told me. A former senior Israeli Biden Administration is investigating to their national security,”Scott-Railton intelligence official added, “NSO has a additional targeting of U.S.officials,and said.“I realized I was mistaken: even the monopoly in Europe.”German, Polish, has launched a review of the threats U.K.was underestimating the threat from and Hungarian authorities have admit- posed by foreign commercial hacking Pegasus, and had just been spectacularly ted to using Pegasus. Belgian law en- tools. Administration officials told me burned.”The U.A.E. did not respond to forcement uses it, too, though it won’t that they now plan to take new, aggres- multiple requests for comment,and NSO admit it. (A spokesperson for the Bel- sive steps.The most significant is “a ban employees told me that the company was gian federal police said that it respects on U.S. government purchase or use of unaware of the hack. One of them said, “a legal framework as to the use of in- foreign commercial spyware that poses “We hear about every, every phone call trusive methods in private life.”) A se- counterintelligence and security risks that is being hacked over the globe, we nior European law-enforcement offi- for the U.S. government or has been get a report immediately”—a statement cial whose agency uses Pegasus said that improperly used abroad,”Adrienne Wat- that contradicts the company’s frequent it gave an inside look at criminal orga- son, a White House spokesperson, said. arguments that it has little insight into nizations: “When do they want to store its customers’ activities. In its statement, the gas, to go to the place, to put the In November, the Commerce De- the company added,“Information raised explosive?”He said that his agency uses partment added NSO Group, along in the inquiry indicates that these alle- Pegasus only as a last resort, with court with several other spyware makers, to a gations are, yet again, false and could not approval, but conceded, “It’s like a list of entities blocked from purchasing be related to NSO products for techno- weapon. . . . It can always occur that an technology from American companies logical and contractual reasons.” individual uses it in the wrong way.” without a license. According to an analysis by the Cit- The United States has been both I was with Hulio in New York izen Lab, phones connected to the For- a consumer and a victim of this tech- the next day. NSO could no longer le- eign Office were hacked using Pegasus nology. Although the National Security gally buy Windows operating systems, on at least five occasions, from July, 2020, Agency and the C.I.A. have their own iPhones, Amazon cloud servers—the through June, 2021. The government of- surveillance technology, other govern- kinds of products it uses to run its busi- ficial confirmed that indications of hack- ment offices, including in the military ness and build its spyware. “It’s out- ing had been uncovered. According to and in the Department of Justice, have rageous,” he told me.“We never sold to the Citizen Lab, the destination servers bought spyware from private companies, any country which is not an ally with suggested that the attacks were initiated according to people involved in those the U.S., or an ally of Israel.We’ve never by states including the U.A.E.,India,and transactions. The Times has reported sold to any country the U.S. doesn’t do Cyprus. (Officials in India and Cyprus that the F.B.I. purchased and tested a business with.” Deals with foreign cli- did not respond to requests for com- Pegasus system in 2019, but the agency ents require “direct written approval from ment.) About a year after the Downing denied deploying the technology. the government of Israel,” Hulio said. Street hack, a British court revealed that the U.A.E. had used Pegasus to spy on Establishing strict rules about who “I think that it is not well understood Princess Haya, the ex-wife of Sheikh can use commercial spyware is com- by American leaders,” Eva Galperin, the Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, plicated by the fact that such technol- director of cybersecurity at the watchdog the ruler of Dubai, one of the Emirates. ogy is offered as a tool of diplomacy.The group Electronic Frontier Foundation, Maktoum was engaged in a custody dis- results can be chaotic.The Times has re- told me. “They keep expecting that the pute with Haya, who had fled with their ported that the C.I.A. paid for Djibouti Israeli government will crack down on two children to the U.K. Her attorneys, to acquire Pegasus, as a way to fight ter- NSO for this, whereas, in fact, they’re who are British, were also targeted. A rorism. According to a previously unre- doing the Israeli government’s bidding.” source directly involved told me that a ported investigation by WhatsApp, the Last month, the Washington Post re- whistle-blower contacted NSO to alert technology was also used against mem- ported that Israel had blocked Ukraine it to the cyberattack on Haya.The com- bers of Djibouti’s own government, in- from purchasing Pegasus, not wanting to pany enlisted Cherie Blair, the wife of cluding its Prime Minister,Abdoulkadar alienate Russia. “Everything that we are former Prime Minister Tony Blair and Kamil Mohamed, and its Minister of doing, we got the permission from the an adviser to NSO, to notify Haya’s at- the Interior, Hassan Omar. government of Israel,” Hulio told me. torneys. “We alerted everyone in time,” “The entire mechanism of regulation in Hulio told me.Soon afterward,the U.A.E. Last year, as the Washington Post re- Israel was built by the Americans.” shut down its Pegasus system, and NSO ported and Apple disclosed in a legal announced that it would prevent its soft- filing, the iPhones of eleven people NSO sees itself as a type of arms ware from targeting U.K. phone num- working for the U.S.government abroad, dealer, operating in a field without bers,as it has long done for U.S.numbers. many of them at its embassy in Uganda, established norms. Hulio said, “There were hacked using Pegasus.NSO Group is the Geneva Conventions for the use said that, “following a media inquiry” of a weapon. I truly believe that there THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 39

should be a convention of countries that AFTER MY BROTHER’S DEATH, I REFLECT ON THE ILIAD should agree between themselves on the proper use of such tools” for cyber war- The water cuts out while shampoo still clogs my hair. fare.In the absence of international reg- The nurse who swabs my nose hopes I don’t have the virus, it’s a bitch. ulation, a battle is taking place between The building across from the cemetery calls itself LIFE STORAGE. private companies: on one side, firms like NSO; on the other, the major tech- My little brother was shot, I tell the barista who asks how things have been, nology platforms through which such and tip extra for her inconvenience. We speak only firms implement their spyware. to the dead, someone tells me—to comfort, I assume, or inspire, On Thursday, May 2, 2019, Claudiu but I take it literally, as I am wont: even my shut up and fuck Dan Gheorghe, a software engineer, and let’s cook tonight, was working at Building 10 on Face- book’s campus in Menlo Park, where those are for you, Stephen. You won’t come to me in my dreams, he managed a team of seven people re- so I must communicate by other avenues. sponsible for WhatsApp’s voice- and video-calling infrastructure. Gheorghe, A friend sends an image from Cy Twombly’s “Fifty Days at Iliam” who was born in Romania, is thirty- —a red bloom, the words “like a fire that consumes all before it”— five, with a slight frame and dark, close- and asks: Have you seen this? It’s at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. cropped hair. In a photograph he used as a professional head shot during his If I have, I can’t remember, though I did visit nine years at Facebook, he wears a with you, when you were eleven or twelve, when you tripped black hoodie and looks a little like El- silent alarm after silent alarm, skating out of each room liot Alderson, the protagonist of the hacking drama “Mr.Robot.”Building 10 as guards jostled in, and I—though charged with keeping you is a two-story structure with open-plan from trouble—joined the game, and the whole time we never laughed, workspaces, brightly colored accent not till we were released into the grand air we couldn’t touch and could. walls,and whiteboards.Engineers,most of them in their twenties and thirties, You are dead at twenty-two. As I rinse dishes, fumble for my keys, hunch over keyboards.The word “focus” buy kale and radishes, is written on a wall and stamped on magnets scattered around the office.“It in my ear Priam repeats, I have kissed the hand of the man often felt like a church,” Gheorghe re- who killed my son. called. WhatsApp, which Facebook bought for nineteen billion dollars in Would I do that? I ask as I pass the store labelled SIGNS SIGNS. 2014, is the world’s most popular mes- saging application, with about two bil- I’ve studied the mug shot of the man who killed you; I can imagine lion monthly users. his hands. Facebook had presented the plat- Of course I would. Each finger, even. form, which uses end-to-end encryp- To hold your body again. And to resurrect you? Who knows what tion, as ideal for sensitive communica- tions; now the company’s security team I am capable of. was more than two years into an effort to reinforce the security of its products. international offices awoke and began Apple, compared the concept to a heist One task entailed looking at “signalling to scrutinize the code, they grew con- scene in the film “Ocean’s Twelve,” in messages”automatically sent by Whats- cerned. Otto Ebeling, who worked on which a character dances through a App users to the company’s servers, in Facebook’s security team in London, hall filled with lasers that trigger alarms. order to initiate calls. That evening, told me that the code seemed “pol- “In that scene, the vulnerability is that Gheorghe was alerted to an unusual ished, slick, which was alarming.”Early there exists a path through all the la- signalling message. A piece of code that on the morning after the message was sers, where it’s possible to get across was intended to dictate the ringtone discovered, Joaquin Moreno Garijo, the room,”Krstić said.“But the exploit contained, instead, code with strange another member of the London secu- is that somebody had to be a precise instructions for the recipient’s phone. rity team, wrote on the company’s in- enough dancer to actually be able to ternal messaging system that, owing to do that dance.” In a system as vast as Facebook’s, how sophisticated the code was, “we anomalies were routine, and usually in- believe that attacker may have found By late Sunday, a group of engineers nocuous. Unfamiliar code can stem a vulnerability.”Programmers who work working on the problem had become from an older version of the software, on security issues often describe their convinced that the code was an active or it can be a stress test by Facebook’s work in terms of vulnerabilities and exploit, one that was attacking vulner- Red Team, which conducts simulated exploits. Ivan Krstić, an engineer at abilities in their infrastructure as they attacks. But, as engineers in Facebook’s watched.They could see that data were 40 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

If I were. Nights, I replay news footage: your blood on asphalt, sheen ers.“There’s a risk of—you might go to behind caution tape. someone who’s a customer,”he told me. (Their concerns were valid: weeks later, Homer’s similes, I’ve been told, are holes cut in the cloth between the Times has reported,the F.B.I.hosted the world of war NSO engineers at a facility in New Jer- sey, where the agency tested the Pega- and another, more peaceful world. On rereading, I find even there, a man sus software it had purchased.) Cath- kills his neighbor. cart alerted Mark Zuckerberg, who considered the problem “horrific,”Cath- “Let Achilles cut me down, / as soon as I have taken my son into my arms cart recalled, and pressed the team to and have satisfied my desire for grief ”—this, my mind’s new refrain work quickly. For Gheorghe, “it was a in the pharmacy queue, in the train’s rattling frame. terrifying Monday. I woke up at like 6 A.M., and then I worked until I couldn’t stay awake anymore.” The same friend and I discuss a line by Zbigniew Herbert NSO’s headquarters are in a glass- “where a distant fire is burning / like a page of the Iliad.” and-steel office building in Her- It’s nearly an ontological question, my friend says, the instability zliya, a suburb outside Tel Aviv. The area is home to a cluster of technology of reference: firms from Israel’s thriving startup sec- tor.The beach is a twenty-minute walk The fires in the pages of the poem, the literal page set afire. away.The world’s most notorious com- We see double. mercial hacking enterprise is remark- You are the boy in the museum. You are the body consumed, ash. ably unprotected: at times, a single se- curity guard waved me through. Alone in a London museum, I saw a watercolor of twin flames, one black, one a gauzy red, On the building’s fourteenth floor, programmers wearing hoodies gather only to learn the title is “Boats at Sea.” It’s like how sometimes I forget in a cafeteria outfitted with an espresso you’re gone. machine and an orange juicer, or sit on a terrace with views of the Mediterra- But it’s not like that, is it? Not at all. When in this world, similes nean. A poster reads “Life was much carry us nowhere. easier when Apple and Black- Berry were just fruits.” Stairs de- And now I see again the boy pelting through those galleries, scend to the various programming a boy not you, a flash of red, red, chasing, or being chased— groups, each of which has its own rec- Or did I invent him? Mischief companion. Brother. Listen to me reational space, with couches and Play- Station 5s. The Pegasus team likes to plead for your life though even in the dream I know you’re already dead. play Electronic Arts’football game,fifa. How do I insure my desire for grief is never satisfied? Was Priam’s ever? I tell my friend, I want the page itself to burn. Employees told me that the company keeps its technology covert through an —Elisa Gonzalez information-security department with several dozen experts. “There is a very being copied from users’phones.“It was WhatsApp security engineer, wrote, in large department in the company which scary,” Gheorghe recalled. “Like the an internal message, “because we don’t is in charge of whitewashing, I would world is sort of shaking under you, be- understand the root cause the impact say, all connection, all network connec- cause you built this thing, and it’s used for users and other possible attacker tion between the client back to NSO,” by so many people, but it has this mas- numbers / techniques.” a former employee said.“They are pur- sive flaw in it.” chasing servers, V.P.N. servers around On Monday, at crisis meetings with the world. They have, like, this whole The engineers quickly identified WhatsApp’s top executive, Will Cath- infrastructure set up so none of the com- ways to block the offending code, but cart, and Facebook’s head of security, munication can be traced.” they debated whether to do so. Block- the company told its engineers around ing access would tip off the attackers, the world that they had forty-eight hours Despite these precautions,WhatsApp and perhaps allow them to erase their to investigate the problem.“What would engineers managed to trace data from tracks before the engineers could make the scale of the victims be?” Cathcart the hack to I.P. addresses tied to proper- sure that any solution closed all possi- recalled worrying. “I mean, how many ties and Web services used by NSO.“We ble avenues of attack. “That would be people were hit by this?” The compa- now knew that one of the biggest threat like chasing ghosts,” Ebeling said. ny’s leadership decided not to notify actors in the world has a live exploit “Made a decision to not roll out the law enforcement immediately, fearing against WhatsApp,” Gheorghe recalled. server-side fix,” Andrey Labunets, a that U.S.officials might tip off the hack- “I mean, it was exciting, because it’s very THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 41

rare to catch some of these things. But, Core Research Group, made up of sev- of Justice, which is developing a case at the same time, it was also extremely eral dozen software developers. “You’re against NSO. Then the company up- scary.” A picture of the victims began looking for a silver bullet, a simple ex- dated its servers to block the malicious to emerge. “Likely there are journalists ploit that can cover as much mobile de- code. “Ready to roll,” Gheorghe wrote human rights activists and others on the vices around the world,”Omer told me. on the internal messaging service that list,”Labunets,the security engineer,wrote Gheorghe said, “A lot of people, you afternoon. The fix was constructed to on the company’s messaging system. know, would think about the hackers look like routine server maintenance, (Eventually, the team identified some as being, like, just one person in a dark so that NSO might continue to at- fourteen hundred WhatsApp users who room, like, typing on a keyboard, right? tempt attacks, providing Facebook with had been targeted.) That’s not the reality—these people are more data. just, like, another tech company.” It is By midweek,about thirty people were common for tech companies to hire The next day, WhatsApp engineers working on the problem, operating in said, NSO began to send what looked a twenty-four-hour relay, people with backgrounds like decoy data packets,which they spec- with one group going to in hacking, and to offer ulated were a way to determine whether sleep as another came on- bounties to outside pro- NSO’s activities were being watched. line.Facebook extended the grammers who identify vul- “In one of the malicious packets, they team’s deadline, and they nerabilities in their systems. actually sent a YouTube link,” Gheor- began to reverse engineer Facebook’s headquarters ghe told me.“We were all laughing like the malicious code. “To be have the vanity address crazy when we saw what it was.” The honest,it’s brilliant.I mean, 1 Hacker Way.At both NSO link was to the music video for the Rick when you look at it, it feels and WhatsApp, the engi- Astley song “Never Gonna Give You like magic,”Gheorghe said. neers closest to the coding Up,”from 1987.Ambushing people with “These people are very are often described by col- a link to the song is a popular trolling smart,” he added. “I don’t leagues as quirky introverts, tactic known as Rickrolling. Otto Ebe- agree with what they do, but, man, that resembling the hacker archetypes of fic- ling recalled, “Rickrolling is, I don’t is a very complicated thing they built.” tion.“They are special people. Not all of know, something my colleague might The exploit triggered two video calls in them can communicate clearly with other do to me, not some sort of semi-state- close succession, one joining the other, human beings,” Omer said, of the pro- sponsored people.” Cathcart told me, with the malicious code hidden in their grammers who work on Pegasus.“Some “There was a message in it. They were settings. The process took only a few of them don’t sleep for two days. They saying, We know what you did, we see seconds, and deleted any notifications get crazy when they don’t sleep.” you.” (Hulio and other NSO employ- immediately afterward. The code used ees said they could not recall Rickroll- a technique known as a “buffer over- Late in the week, Facebook’s secu- ing WhatsApp.) flow,” in which an area of memory on rity team devised an act of subter- a device is overloaded with more data fuge: they would simulate an infected In the months that followed, than it can accommodate.“It’s like you’re device, to get NSO’s servers to send WhatsApp began notifying users who writing on a piece of paper and you go them a copy of the code.“But their soft- had been targeted.The list included nu- beyond the bounds,” Gheorghe ex- ware was smart enough to basically not merous government officials, including plained.“You start writing on whatever be tricked by this,”Gheorghe said.“We at least one French ambassador and the the surface is, right? You start writing never really were able to get our hands Djiboutian Prime Minister. “There on the desk.” The overflow allows the on that.” wasn’t, you know, overlap between this software to overwrite surrounding sec- list and, like, legitimate law-enforce- tions of memory freely. “You can make Omer told me,“It’s a cat-and-mouse ment outreach,” Cathcart said. “You it do whatever you want.” game.”Although NSO says that its cus- could see, wow, there’s a lot of countries tomers control the use of Pegasus, it all around the world.This isn’t just one I spoke with a vice-president for does not dispute its direct role in these agency or organization in one country product development at NSO, whom exchanges. “Every day, things are being targeting people.”WhatsApp also began the firm requested I identify only by his patched,” Hulio said. “This is the rou- working with the Citizen Lab, which first name, Omer—citing, without ap- tine work here.” warned victims of the risk that they parent irony,privacy concerns.“You find might be hacked again,and helped them the nooks and crannies enabling you to At times, WhatsApp users received secure their devices. John Scott-Railton do something that the product designer repeated missed calls, but the malware said,“It really was interesting how many didn’t intend,” Omer told me. Once in wasn’t successfully installed. Once the people were upset and saddened, but in control, the exploit loaded more soft- engineers learned about these incidents, a deep way not surprised, almost re- ware, allowing the attacker to extract they were able to study what it looked lieved, as if they were getting a diagno- data or activate a camera or a micro- like when Pegasus failed. Toward the sis for a mystery ailment they had suf- phone. The entire process was “zero end of the week, Gheorghe told me, fered for many years.” click,” requiring no action from the “we said, O.K., we don’t have a full un- phone’s owner. derstanding at this point, but I think Five people in the initial group iden- we captured enough.”On Friday morn- tified by WhatsApp were Catalans, The software was designed by NSO’s ing, Facebook notified the Department including elected lawmakers and an 42 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

activist. Campo, the Catalan security that engages in combat with hackers. were allegedly targeted by NSO, Apple researcher, realized that the cases “were Although Pegasus is not designed to filed its own lawsuit. NSO has filed a probably just the tip of the iceberg.”He target users through Microsoft plat- motion to dismiss. “Apple is a company added, “That’s when I found myself in forms, at least four people in Catalo- that does not believe in theatrical law- the intersection of technology—a prod- nia running Microsoft Windows on suits,”Ivan Krstić, the engineer, told me. uct that I contributed to building—and their computers have been attacked by “We have this entire time been waiting my home country.” spyware made by Candiru, a startup for a smoking gun that would let us go founded by former NSO employees. file a suit that is winnable.” WhatsApp continued sharing in- (A spokesperson for Candiru said that formation with the Department of Jus- it requires its products to be used for Apple created a threat-intelligence tice, and, that fall, the company sued the “sole purpose of preventing crime team nearly four years ago. Two Apple NSO in federal court. NSO Group and terror.”) In February, 2021, the Cit- employees involved in the work told me “breached our systems, damaged us,” izen Lab identified evidence of an ac- that it was a response to the spread of Cathcart told me. “I mean, do you just tive infection—a rarity for spyware of spyware, exemplified by NSO Group. do nothing about that? No.There have this calibre—on a laptop belonging to “NSO is a big pain point,” one of the to be consequences.” Joan Matamala, an activist closely con- employees told me. “Even before the nected to separatist politicians. Campo stuff that hit the news,we had disrupted Hulio said,“I just remember that one called Matamala and instructed him to NSO a number of times.”In 2020, with day the lawsuit happened,and they shut wrap the laptop in aluminum foil, a the launch of its iOS 14 software, Apple down the Facebook account of our em- makeshift way of blocking the malware had introduced a system called Blast- ployees, which was a very bully move from communicating with servers.The Door, which moved the processing of for them to do.” He added, referring to Citizen Lab was able to extract a copy iMessages—including any potentially scandals about Facebook’s role in soci- of the spyware,which Microsoft dubbed malicious code—into a chamber con- ety, “I think it’s a big hypocrisy.” NSO DevilsTongue. Several months later, nected to the rest of the operating sys- has pushed for the suit to be dismissed, Microsoft released updates blocking tem by only a single, narrow pipeline of arguing that the company’s work on be- DevilsTongue and preventing future data. But Omer, the NSO V.P., told me half of governments should grant it the attacks. By then, the list of activists and that “newer features usually have some same immunity from lawsuits that those journalists targeted “made the hairs on holes in their armor,” making them governments have.So far,the U.S.courts the back of our neck stand on end,” “more easy to target.” Krstić conceded have rejected this argument. Goodwin said. Matamala has been tar- that there was “a sort of an eye of a nee- geted more than sixteen times. “I still dle of an opening still left.” WhatsApp’s aggressive posture was have the aluminum paper stored here, unusual among big technology in case we ever have a suspicion of In March,2021,Apple’s security team companies, which are often reluctant to having another infection,” he told me. received a tip that a hacker had success- call attention to instances in which their fully threaded that needle. Even cyber systems have been compromised. The Last November, after iPhone users warfare has double agents. A person lawsuit signalled a shift.The tech com- familiar with Apple’s threat-intelligence panies were now openly aligned against the spyware venders. Gheorghe de- scribed it as “the moment the whole thing just exploded.” Microsoft, Google, Cisco, and oth- ers filed a legal brief in support of WhatsApp’s suit. Goodwin, the Mic- rosoft executive, helped to assemble the coalition of companies. “We could not let NSO Group prevail with an argu- ment that,simply because a government is using your products and services, you get sovereign immunity,” she told me. “The ripple effect of that would have been so dangerous.” Hulio argues that when governments use Pegasus they’re less likely to lean on platform holders for wider “back door” access to users’ data. He expressed exasperation with the lawsuit. “Instead of them, like, ac- tually saying,‘O.K., thank you,’”he told me, “they are going to sue us. Fine, so let’s meet in court.” Microsoft, too, has a security team

capabilities said that the company’s team Krstić told me that this was “a massive stage,” the former employee said. “This sometimes receives tips from informants point of pride” for the team. But Omer was one of the major events that I think connected to spyware enterprises:“We’ve told me, “We saw it coming. We just caused many of the employees to, like, spent a long time and a lot of effort in counted the days until it happened.”He wake up and understand what’s going trying to get to a place where we can and others at the company said the next on.” In the past few years, the depar- actually learn something about what’s exploit is an inevitability.“There might tures have been “like a snowball.”Hulio, going on deeply behind the scenes at be some gaps. It could take two weeks in response to questions about the com- some of these companies.” (An Apple to come up with a mitigation on our pany’s problems, said, “What worries spokesperson said that Apple does not side, some work-around.” me is the vibes of the employees.” “run sources” within spyware compa- nies.) The spyware venders, too, rely on During interviews in NSO’s offices In 2019,NSO was saddled with hun- intelligence gathering, such as securing last month, employees exchanged dreds of millions of dollars in debt pre-release versions of software, which nervous glances with hovering pub- as part of a leveraged-buyout deal in they use to design their next attacks. lic-relations staffers as they answered which a London-based private-equity “We follow the publications, we follow questions about morale in the midst of firm, Novalpina, acquired a seventy- the beta versions of whatever apps we’re the scandals, lawsuits, and blacklisting. per-cent stake. Recently, Moody’s, the targeting,” Omer told me. “To be honest, not every time the mood financial-services firm, downgraded is actually good,” Omer said. Others NSO’s credit rating to “poor,” and That month, researchers from the claimed loyalty to the company and be- Bloomberg described it as a distressed Citizen Lab contacted Apple: the phone lief in the power of its tools to catch asset, shunned by Wall Street traders. of a Saudi women’s-rights activist, Lou- criminals. “The company has a very Two top NSO executives have left, and jain al-Hathloul, had been hacked strong narrative that it tries to sell in- relations between the company and its through iMessage. Later, the Citizen ternally to the employees,” the former backers have deteriorated. Infighting Lab was able to send Apple a copy of employee told me. “You’re either with among Novalpina’s partners led to the an exploit, which the researcher Bill them or against them.” transfer of control of its assets, includ- Marczak discovered after months of ing NSO, to a consulting firm, Berke- scrutinizing Hathloul’s phone, buried in Israel has become the world’s most ley Research Group, which pledged to an image file. The person familiar with significant source of private surveillance increase oversight. But a BRG execu- Apple’s threat-intelligence capabilities technology in part because of the qual- tive recently claimed that coöperation said that receiving the file, through an ity of talent and expertise produced by with Hulio had become “virtually encrypted digital channel, was “sort of its military.“Because of the compulsory non-existent.” Agence France-Presse like getting a thing handed to you in a service, we can recruit the best of the has reported that tensions emerged be- biohazard bag, which says,‘Do not open best,”the former senior intelligence of- cause NSO’s creditors have pressed for except in a Biosafety Level 4 lab.’” ficial told me. “The American dream is continued sales to countries with du- going from M.I.T. to Google. The Is- bious human-rights records,while BRG Apple’s investigation took a week raeli dream is to go to 8200,” the Israeli has sought to pause them. “We indeed and involved several dozen engineers military-intelligence unit from which have some disputes with them,” Hulio based in the United States and Europe. spyware venders often recruit. (Hulio, said, of BRG. “It’s about how to run The company concluded that NSO had the business.” injected malicious code into files in Ado- who describes himself as a mediocre be’s PDF format. It then tricked a sys- student whose upbringing was “noth- NSO’s troubles have complicated its tem in iMessage into accepting and pro- ing fancy,”often emphasizes that he did close alliance with the Israeli state.The cessing the PDFs outside BlastDoor. not serve in Unit 8200.) NSO has his- former senior intelligence official re- “It’s borderline science fiction,”the per- torically been regarded as an appealing called that, in the past, when his unit son familiar with Apple’s threat-intel- job prospect for young veterans. But the turned down European countries seek- ligence capabilities said. “When you former NSO employee, who quit after ing intelligence collaboration, “Mos- read the analysis, it’s hard to believe.” becoming concerned that Pegasus had sad said, Here’s the next best thing, Google’s security-research team, Proj- facilitated Jamal Khashoggi’s murder, NSO Group.” Several people familiar ect Zero, also studied a copy of the ex- told me that others had become disil- with those deals said that Israeli au- ploit,and later wrote in a blog post,“We lusioned, too. “Many of my colleagues thorities provided little ethical guid- assess this to be one of the most tech- decided to leave the company at that ance or restraint. The former official nically sophisticated exploits we’ve ever added, “Israeli export control was not seen,further demonstrating that the ca- dealing with ethics. It was dealing with pabilities NSO provides rival those pre- two things. One, Israeli national inter- viously thought to be accessible to only est.Two, reputation.”The former NSO a handful of nation states.”In the NSO employee said that the state “was well offices, programmers in the Core Re- aware of the misuse, and even using it search Group printed a copy of the post as part of its own diplomatic relation- and hung it on the wall. ships.” (Israel’s Ministry of Defense said in a statement that “each licens- Apple shipped updates for its plat- ing assessment is made in light of var- forms that rendered the exploit useless. 44 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

ious considerations including the se- “ You still have to choose which chef you want to prepare your food.” curity clearance of the product and assessment of the country toward which •• the product will be marketed. Human rights, policy, and security issues are all But such claims are difficult to verify. system then runs with only limited con- taken into consideration.”) After the “NSO wanted Western Europe mainly nection to NSO in Israel. blacklisting of NSO, Hulio sought to so they can tell guys like you, Here’s a enlist Israeli officials, including Prime European example,” the former Israeli But NSO engineers concede that Minister Naftali Bennett and Defense intelligence official, who now works in there is some real-time monitoring of Minister Benny Gantz. “I sent a let- the spyware sector, said. “But most of systems to prevent unauthorized tam- ter,” he told me. “I said that as a regu- their business is subsidized by the Saudi pering with or theft of their technol- lated company, you know, everything Arabias of the world.”The former em- ogy. And the former employee said, of that we have ever asked was with the ployee, who had knowledge of NSO’s Hulio’s assurances that NSO is techni- permission, and with the authority, of sales efforts,said,“For a European coun- cally prevented from overseeing the sys- the government of Israel.”But a senior try, they would charge ten million dol- tem,“That’s a lie.”The former employee Biden Administration official said that lars. And for a country in the Middle recalled support and maintenance ef- the Israelis raised only “pretty mild East they could charge, like, two hun- forts that involved remote access by complaints” about the blacklisting. dred and fifty million for the same prod- NSO, with the customer’s permission “They didn’t like it, but we didn’t have uct.”This seemed to create perverse in- and live oversight.“There is remote ac- a standoff.” centives: “When they understood that cess,”the former employee added.“They they had misuse in those countries that can see everything that goes on. They In Israel’s legislature, Arab politi- they sold to for enormous amounts of have access to the database, they have cians are leading a modest movement money, then the decision to shut down access to all of the data.”The senior Eu- to examine the state’s relationship with the service for that specific country be- ropean law-enforcement official told NSO.The Arab party leader Sami Abou came much, much harder.” me, “They can have remote access to Shahadeh told me,“We tried to discuss the system when we authorize them to this in the Knesset twice . . . to tell the Asked about the extreme abuses as- access the system.” Israeli politicians, You are selling death cribed to his technology, Hulio invoked to very weak societies that are in con- an argument that is at the heart of his NSO executives argue that, in an un- flict, and you’ve been doing this for too company’s defense against WhatsApp regulated field, they are attempting to long.” He added, “It never worked, be- and Apple. “We have no access to the construct guardrails. They have touted cause, first and morally, they don’t see data on the system,” he told me. “We their appointment of a compliance com- any problem with that.”Last fall, an in- don’t take part in the operation,we don’t mittee,and told me that they now main- vestigation by the watchdog group Front see what the customers are doing. We tain a list of countries ranked by risk of Line Defenders identified Pegasus in- have no way of monitoring it.” When misuse, based on human-rights indica- fections on the phones of six Palestin- a client buys Pegasus, company officials tors from Freedom House and other ian activists—including one whose Je- said, an NSO team travels to install two groups.(They declined to share the list.) rusalem residency status had been racks, one devoted to storage and an- NSO also says that customers’ Pegasus revoked. Abou Shahadeh argued that other for operating the software. The systems maintain a file that records which the history of Israel’s spyware technol- numbers were targeted; customers are ogy is tied to the surveillance of Pales- tinian communities in the West Bank, East Jerusalem, and Gaza. “They have a huge laboratory,” he told me. “When they were using all the same tools for a long time to spy on Palestinian citizens, nobody cared.”Asked about the target- ing of Palestinians, Hulio said, “If Is- rael is using our tools to fight crime and terror, I would be very proud of it.” “Iknow there have been misuses,” Hulio said. “It’s hard for me to live with that. And I obviously feel sorry for that. Really, I’m not just saying that. I never said it, but I’m saying it now.” Hulio said that the company has turned down ninety customers and hundreds of millions of dollars of business out of concern about the potential for abuse. THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 45

contractually obligated to surrender the like the one in Catalonia,often use tools which was founded in 2018 by former file if NSO starts an investigation. “We from a number of companies, several Israeli intelligence officials and includes have never had a customer say no,”Hulio founded by NSO alumni. Candiru was former Prime Minister Ehud Barak on told me. The company says that it can started in 2012, by the former NSO its board, markets its technology to of- terminate systems remotely,and has done employees Eran Shorer and Yaakov fices within the U.S. government. Par- so seven times in the past few years. Weizman. It was allegedly linked to re- agon’s core technology focusses not on cent attacks on Web sites in the U.K. seizing complete control of phones but The competition, Hulio argued, is and the Middle East (Candiru denies on hacking encrypted messaging sys- far more frightening.“Companies found the connection), and its software has tems like Telegram and Signal. An ex- themselves in Singapore, in Cyprus, in been identified on the devices of Turk- ecutive told me that it has committed other places that don’t have real regu- ish and Palestinian citizens. Candiru to sell only to a narrow list of countries lation,” he told me. “And they can sell has no Web site. The firm shares its with relatively uncontroversial human- to whoever they want.” The spyware name with a parasitic fish, native to the rights records: “Our strategy is to have industry is also full of rogue hackers Amazon River basin, that drains the values,which is interesting to the Amer- willing to crack devices for anyone who blood of larger fish. ican market.” will pay. “They will take your comput- ers, they will take your phone, your QuaDream was founded two years In Catalonia, Gonzalo Boye, an attor- Gmail,” Hulio said. “It’s obviously ille- later, by a group including two other ney representing nineteen people tar- gal. But it’s very common now. It’s not former NSO employees, Guy Geva geted by Pegasus, is preparing criminal that expensive.” Some of the technol- and Nimrod Reznik. Like NSO, it fo- complaints to courts in Spain and other ogy that NSO competes with, he says, cusses on smartphones. Earlier this European countries, accusing NSO, as comes from state actors, including year, Reuters reported that QuaDream well as Hulio and his co-founders, of China and Russia. “I can tell you that had exploited the same vulnerability breaking national and E.U. laws. Boye today in China, today in Africa, you see that NSO used to gain access to Ap- has represented Catalan politicians in the Chinese government giving capa- ple’s iMessage. QuaDream, whose of- exile, including the former President bilities almost similar to NSO.” Ac- fices are behind an unmarked door in Carles Puigdemont. Between March cording to a report from the Carnegie the Tel Aviv suburb of Ramat Gan, ap- and October of 2020, analysis by the Endowment for International Peace, pears to share with many of its com- Citizen Lab found, Boye was targeted China supplies surveillance tools to petitors a reliance on regulation ha- eighteen times with text messages mas- sixty-three countries,often through pri- vens: its flagship malware, Reign, is querading as updates from Twitter and vate firms enmeshed with the Chinese reportedly owned by a Cyprus-based news sites.At least one attempt resulted state. “NSO will not exist tomorrow, entity, InReach. According to Haaretz, in a successful Pegasus infection. Boye let’s say,” Hulio told me. “There’s not the firm is among those now employed says that he now spends as much time going to be a vacuum. What do you by Saudi Arabia. (QuaDream could as possible outside Spain. In a recent think will happen?” not be reached for comment.) interview, he wondered,“How can I de- fend someone, if the other side knows NSO is also competing with Israeli Other Israeli firms pitch themselves exactly everything I’ve said to my cli- firms. Large-scale hacking campaigns, as less reputationally fraught. Paragon, ent?”Hulio declined to identify specific customers but suggested that Spain’s “If you win, the game is rigged, but if I win use of the technology was legitimate. it’s flawless and beyond critique.” “Spain definitely has a rule of law,” he told me. “And if everything was legal, with the approval of the Supreme Court, or with the approval of all the lawful mechanisms, then it can’t be misused.” Pere Aragonès, the current President of Catalonia, told me, “We are not crim- inals.” He is one of three people who have served in that role whose phones have been infected with Pegasus.“What we want from the Spanish authorities is transparency.” Last month, the European Parlia- ment formed a committee to look into the use of Pegasus in Europe.Last week, Reuters reported that senior officials at the European Commission had been targeted by NSO spyware. The inves- tigative committee, whose members in-

clude Puigdemont, will convene for its The tactics were similar to those ships and schedules, and alerts law en- first session on April 19th. Puigdemont used by the private intelligence com- forcement to variations of routine that called NSO’s activities “a threat not only pany Black Cube, which is run largely might be harbingers of crime.“I’m sure for the credibility of Spanish democ- by former officers of Mossad and other this will be the next big thing coming racy, but for the credibility of European Israeli intelligence agencies, and is out of NSO,” Leoz Michaelson, one of democracy itself.” known for using operatives with false its designers, told me. “Turning every identities. The firm worked on behalf life pattern into a mathematical vector.” NSO Group also faces legal conse- of the producer Harvey Weinstein to quences in the U.K.: three activists re- track women who had accused him of The product is already used by a cently notified the company, as well as sexual abuse, and last month three of handful of countries, and Hulio said the governments of Saudi Arabia and its officials received sus- that it had contributed to an arrest,after the U.A.E., that they plan to sue over pended prison sentences alleged abuses of Pegasus. (The com- for hacking and intimidat- a suspect in a terrorism in- pany responded that there was “no basis” ing Romania’s chief anti- vestigation subtly altered for their claims.) corruption prosecutor. his routine. The company seemed to have given little NSO continues to defend itself in Black Cube has been consideration to the idea the WhatsApp suit.This month,it filed linked to at least one other that this tool, too, might an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. case involving NSO Group. spur controversy. When I “If we need to go and fight, we will,” In February, 2019, the A.P. asked what would happen Shmuel Sunray, NSO’s general coun- reported that Black Cube if law enforcement arrested sel, told me. Lawyers for WhatsApp agents had targeted three someone based on, say, an said that, in their fight with NSO, they attorneys involved in an- innocent trip to the store have encountered underhanded tactics, other suit against NSO Group, as in the middle of the night, including an apparent campaign of pri- well as a London-based journalist cov- Michaelson said, “There could be false vate espionage. ering the case. The lawyers—Mazen positives.” But, he added, “this guy that Masri, Alaa Mahajna, and Christiana is going to buy milk in the middle of On December 20, 2019, Joe Mornin, Markou—who represented hacked the night is in the system for a reason.” an associate at Cooley L.L.P., a Palo journalists and activists, had sued NSO Yet the risk to bystanders is not an Alto law firm that was representing and an affiliated entity in Israel and abstraction. Last week, Elies Campo WhatsApp in its suit against NSO, re- Cyprus. In late 2018, all three received decided to check the phones of his ceived an e-mail from a woman who messages from people who claimed to parents, scientists who are not involved identified herself as Linnea Nilsson, a be associated with a rich firm or indi- in political activities, for spyware. He producer at a Stockholm-based com- vidual, repeatedly suggesting meetings found that both had been infected with pany developing a documentary series in London. NSO Group has denied Pegasus when he visited them during on cybersecurity. Nilsson was cagey hiring Black Cube to target opponents. the Christmas holiday in 2019. Campo about her identity but so eager to meet However,Hulio acknowledged the con- told me, “The idea that anyone could Mornin that she bought him a first- nection to me, saying, “For the lawsuit be at risk from Pegasus wasn’t just a class plane ticket from San Francisco in Cyprus, there was one involvement concept anymore—it was my parents to New York. The ticket was paid for of Black Cube,” because the lawsuit sitting across the table from me.” On in cash, through World Express Travel, “came from nowhere, and I want to his mother’s phone, which had been an agency that specialized in trips to understand.” He said that he had not hacked eight times, the researchers Israel. Mornin never used the ticket. A hired Black Cube for other lawsuits. found a new kind of zero-click exploit, Web site for the documentary company, Black Cube said that it would not com- which attacked iMessage and iOS’s populated with photos from elsewhere ment on the cases, though a source fa- Web-browsing engine.There is no ev- on the Internet, soon disappeared. So miliar with the company denied that idence that iPhones are still vulnera- did a LinkedIn profile for Nilsson. it had targeted Cooley lawyers. ble to the exploit, which the Citizen Lab has given the working name Hom- Several months later, a woman “People can survive and can adapt age. When the evidence was found, claiming to be Anastasia Chistyakova, to almost any situation,” Hulio Scott-Railton told Campo,“You’re not a Moscow-based trustee for a wealthy once told me. NSO Group must now going to believe this, but your mother individual, contacted Travis LeBlanc, adapt to a situation in which its flag- is patient zero for a previously undis- a Cooley partner working on the ship product has become a symbol of covered exploit.” WhatsApp case, seeking legal advice. oppression. “I don’t know if we’ll win, During a recent visit to NSO’s of- The woman sent voice-mail, e-mail, but we will fight,” he said. One solu- fices, windows and whiteboards across Facebook, and LinkedIn messages. tion was to expand the product line. the space were dense with flowcharts Mornin identified her voice as belong- The company demonstrated for me an and graphics, in Hebrew and English ing to Nilsson, and the law firm later artificial-intelligence tool, called Mae- text, chronicling ideas for products and concluded that her e-mail had come stro, that scrutinizes surveillance data, exploits. On one whiteboard, scrawled from the same block of I.P. addresses builds models of individuals’ relation- in large red Hebrew characters and firmly as those sent by Nilsson. The lawyers underlined, was a single word: “War!”  reported the incidents to the Depart- ment of Justice. THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022 47

ONWARD AND UPWARD WITH THE ARTS NORWEGIAN WOOD In Scandinavia, ecologically minded architects are building skyscrapers with pillars of pine and spruce. BY REBECCA MEAD B rumunddal, a small municipal- cious gesture and a proof of concept. net’s sheer façade is clad in panels of ity on the northeastern shore It depends for its strength and stabil- orange-brown knotty timber, whose of Lake Mjøsa, in Norway, has ity not on steel and concrete but on dark vertical lines of wood grain lure for most of its history had little to rec- giant wooden beams of glulam—short the eye upward. By the entrance, an ommend it to the passing visitor.There for “glued laminated timber”—an en- English-language sign attests that a are no picturesque streets with cafés gineered product in which pieces of group called the Council on Tall Build- and boutiques, as there are in the ski lumber are bound together with water- ings and Urban Habitat has certified resort of Lillehammer, some thirty resistant adhesives. Glulam is manu- the tower’s record-breaking status.Pass- miles to the north. Industrial build- factured at industrial scale from the ing through a revolving door, I smelled ings, mostly for the lumber industry, spruce and pine forests that cover about the enticing scent of pine—though its occupy the area closest to the lake, and a third of Norway’s landmass, includ- source, I realized, to my mild disap- the waterfront is cut off by a highway. ing the slopes around Brumunddal, pointment, was a Christmas tree. The town, which has a population of from which the timber for Mjøstårnet eleven thousand, was until recently best was harvested. The material from which the tower known to Norwegians for a series of had been built was evident, though, in attacks on immigrant residents three I went to see the building in mid- the airy ground-floor lobby and restau- decades ago, which led to street clashes December, arriving by a train from rant, where wooden dining tables and between anti-racism protesters and Oslo that passed through farmland and chairs were arrayed on bare wooden supporters of the far right. Since 2019, woodland before reaching the edge of floorboards, wooden pendant lamp- however, Brumunddal has achieved a Lake Mjøsa, which is Norway’s big- shades dangled on long cords, and large more welcome identity: as the site of gest.The steely waters lapped a shore- bamboo palms in pots were clustered Mjøstårnet, the tallest all-timber build- line of charcoal-colored rock, on which at the base of a curved wooden stair- ing in the world. traces of the previous weekend’s snow case that rose to a mezzanine. Large remained.The forested bank opposite, columns supporting the building, as Mjøstårnet—the name means“Tower when it emerged from clouds of fog, well as angled braces cutting across the of Mjøsa”—stands at two hundred and was dark green against the pallid sky. restaurant’s walls of windows, were eighty feet and consists of eighteen The journey north from the capital formed from massive glulam blocks, floors, combining office space, residen- takes about an hour and a half, but I the thickest of which were almost five tial units,and a seventy-two-room hotel didn’t need a watch to tell me when I feet by two feet, like pieces from a mon- that has become a destination for visi- had arrived at Brumunddal—the in- strous Jenga set. Riding a glass-walled tors curious about the future of sustain- congruous sight of a tower block ris- elevator to my room, on the eleventh able architecture and of novel achieve- ing from the water’s edge was a suffi- floor, I noticed that the elevator shaft ments in structural engineering. It’s the cient signpost. Descending from the was built from similar chunky blocks. third-tallest tower in Norway, a coun- train, I wheeled my suitcase for fifteen try whose buildings rarely extend above minutes across town—past the park- I had been assigned a corner room ten stories. Although Mjøstårnet dom- ing lot of the local McDonald’s and with two huge picture windows. One inates the Brumunddal skyline, it is a across the highway, which was nearly faced southwest, across the lake, where tenth the height of the world’s tallest empty. As I walked, Mjøstårnet loomed the view was obscured by fog; the other structure, the Burj Khalifa, in Dubai. in the mist, resembling from a distance faced southeast, along the waterfront, Its scale is similar to that of New York’s a box of matches. On the roof, there offering a painterly sweep of gray skies Flatiron Building, which, when com- was an angled wooden canopy that and water, the shoreline clustered with pleted in 1902, topped out at just over might have been fashioned from a denuded deciduous birches and ever- three hundred feet. (Three years later, handful of matches taken from the green spruces. An enormous glulam it was capped with a penthouse.) box’s drawer. pillar between the windows held up the corner of the building. Its surface Like the Flatiron Building—one The tower is flanked by two other had been treated with a translucent of the earliest steel-frame skyscrapers, all-timber structures: on one side, a low white-tinted wax, but otherwise it was which defied public skepticism about building that houses the municipal recognizably derived from the forests the sturdiness of a building that tapers swimming pool; on the other, an office through which I’d passed on the jour- to the extreme angle of about twenty- building. Some low-rise wooden apart- ney from Oslo. I rapped my knuckles five degrees—Mjøstårnet is an auda- ment buildings edge the lake. Mjøstår- on the glulam: it was smooth, resonant, 48 THE NEW YORKER, APRIL 25 & MAY 2, 2022

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